Child Support and Spousal Support / Alimony Pendente Lite
Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines. Those guidelines consider the relative incomes or earning capacities of each party. In setting child support, the Court may consider certain expenses such as child care, extracurricular activities, private school tuition, and health insurance costs.
Similarly, spousal support / alimony pendente lite calculations are also based on statewide guidelines which consider the incomes or earning capacities of each party. The Court will typically follow the guidelines, both for child support and spousal support, however, they may deviate or adjust the support amount under certain circumstances. For example, if you are still married to your spouse and are living in the marital residence, you may be eligible for a “mortgage adjustment” if the mortgage is considered excess in relation to your income.
If you are preparing for a child support or spousal support case, you should work closely with an attorney to make sure you have documentation and evidence of your income, as well as the income of the other party. This may include paystubs, tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and other relevant documentation to show how much each party earns. It is important to ensure that all sources of income are considered. This may include other sources of income such as business profits, interest and dividends, rental income, stock options, and perquisites such as employer-provided vehicles or cell phones.
In some cases, the Court will look at the earning capacity of a party, rather than income. The Court typically uses earning capacity when a party is unemployed or if the Court believes that party has voluntarily reduced his or her income.
It is important to remember that child support and spousal support / alimony pendente lite are usually modifiable upon a significant change in circumstances. In addition, most support orders require each party to notify the Court and each other if there are any changes relevant to the support order (such as a change in income).
In Pennsylvania, the term “alimony” refers to support that is paid to a spouse after a marriage, while “spousal support” and “alimony pendente lite” refer to support paid to a spouse during the marriage (while the parties are separated, but not yet divorced). Alimony is typically determined at the same time as equitable distribution. The Court determines alimony differently than spousal support / alimony pendente lite. In determining alimony, there are seventeen factors the Court considers. Those factors are:
The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties.
The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
The duration of the marriage.
The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
The property brought to the marriage by either party.
The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
The relative needs of the parties.
The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party. As used in this paragraph, “abuse” shall have the meaning given to it under section 6102 (relating to definitions).
The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.
Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
As there are no mathematical guidelines for alimony, it is crucial to ensure that your attorney will work to zealously represent you to ensure that you present the strongest arguments possible on the issue of alimony.