Child Support
Consumer Law
Dependency & Adoption
Marriage & Divorce
Protection From Abuse
Public Benefits
Unemployment Compensation


A. What is alimony?

Alimony is an Order directing one spouse to make payments to another spouse after a decree granting divorce or annulment. The court may allow alimony, as it deems reasonable, only if it finds alimony is necessary.


B. What is the purpose of alimony?

The court, in ordering alimony, shall determine the length of the order, which may vary according to the circumstances. The following types of alimony may be awarded:

    1. Rehabilitation - to provide regular income to a dependent former spouse while he or she obtains the necessary skills to obtain employment to support himself or herself.

    2. Permanent - to provide lifelong income to a former spouse who will always be unable to support himself or herself following divorce.

    3. Compensatory - the doctrine of equitable reimbursement is a method of compensating to compensate a former spouse for his or her contribution to the education or training of the other spouse if there are insufficient assets in equitable distribution to provide economic justice.


C. What factors are used to decide whether someone will receive alimony?

    1. Relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties - may include actual or deemed earnings.

    2. Ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties - disability due to age or physical, mental or emotional infirmity may lead to permanent alimony.

    3. Sources of income of both parties including but not limited to medical, retirement insurance or other benefits. Party may be denied alimony where he or she would have substantial income from equitable distribution award.

    4. Expectancies and inheritances of the parties.

    5. Duration of the marriage - with some exceptions, the shorter the length of the marriage, the less likely the court will award alimony.

    6. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.

    7. 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. Where parties have established a pattern of one parent providing custodial care for school-aged child(ren), the court may continue that pattern with an award of alimony.

    8. Standard of living of the parties established during the marriage - subject to requirement that dependent spouse, where possible, obtain employment skills to support himself/herself.

    9. 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. Alimony is viewed as a transition cushion for the dependent spouse during retraining.

    10. Relative assets and liabilities of the parties.

    11. Property brought into the marriage by either party - relates to relative assets of the parties.

    12. The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker - spouse who stays at home is afforded reasonable opportunity to start a new career.

    13. The relative needs of the parties - closely associated to the standard of living established during the marriage, or a physical, mental or emotional disability suffered by a spouse.

    14. The marital misconduct of either party while the parties resided together (misconduct after the separation will not be considered by the court). Courts have given very little weight to marital misconduct. As stated previously, alimony is not meant to punish either spouse.

    15. Federal, state and local tax ramifications of alimony award.

    16. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of supporting himself/herself through appropriate employment.


D. Is there anything that can stop someone from receiving alimony or end the award once it has been ordered?

    1. Cohabitation

    a. No petitioner shall be entitled to receive alimony where he/she has entered into cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex who is not a member of the petitioner’s immediate family.

    2. Remarriage of the party receiving alimony shall terminate the award of alimony.

    3. Death

    a. Upon the death of the payee, the right to receive alimony shall cease.

    b. Upon death of the payer, the obligation to pay alimony shall cease unless otherwise indicated by agreement of the parties or order of court.


E. What are the tax consequences of alimony?

Alimony payments are income to recipient and deductible by payer if certain requirements are met.

    1. Payment is in cash (including checks or money orders).

    2. Payments are made under a divorce or separation instrument by or on behalf of a spouse or former spouse.

    3. The agreement does not provide for contrary tax treatment.

    4. The parties must be in separate households.

    5. You have no liability to make the payment (in cash or property) after the death of your spouse or former spouse, and your payment is not treated as child support or a property settlement.

    6. The parties cannot file a joint tax return.


Copyright ©2006 Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services, Inc. All rights reserved.
Developed and Empowered by Universal Technologies, Inc. • 724-941-1919 •