One of the biggest sticking points I run into as a Pittsburgh family law attorney is alimony in divorce cases. Prospective obligors typically recoil at the thought of providing for their soon to be ex-spouse for the foreseeable future while prospective recipients are often looking to guarantee themselves a certain standard of living going forward. It is this issue that often leads to a break down in settlement negotiations and the parties subsequently heading to trial.
A court will award alimony, as it deems reasonable, to either party only if it finds that alimony is necessary. In Pennsylvania, there are 17 factors that the court looks at when determining how much, if any, alimony will be due. While I won't walk through each and every one, some of the factors that most frequently come into play are: (1) the relative earnings of the parties, (2) the ages and physical conditions of the parties, (3) the duration of the marriage, (4) the standard of living the parties established during the marriage, (5) the marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage, and (6) whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through employment.
Typically, one or more of these six factors is especially sensitive to parties. For example, if one party earns substantially more than the other, it is likely that the court will enter an alimony award that is large enough to allow the party with the lower income to enjoy a similar standard as he/she enjoyed during the marriage. If the marriage was only a few years long, perhaps the alimony award will only last a few years. However, if the marriage was 25 years long, that alimony award could last for a very long time, if not indefinitely.
If you are considering divorce or have already begun the process, it is important to speak to an attorney regarding alimony. Regardless of whether you might be an obligor or recipient, an experienced divorce attorney can evaluate your case and advise you how to proceed regarding alimony. Very small fluctuations in a monthly alimony payment can add up quickly over the years. Protect yourself by speaking with an attorney early in the divorce process.