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Difference between Alimony and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania

By Sheryl Rentz on September 6, 2016

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, in Western cultures, approximately 90% of people have been married by the time they reach the age of 50. Additionally, they find that roughly 45% of marriages in the US fail. The process of terminating a marriage is strongly correlated with increased stress levels and financial difficulties. In Pennsylvania, two commonly awarded, or ordered actions of the courts are those of alimony and spousal support. Often the two terms are mistakenly used interchangeably, and in Pennsylvania they are two separate and distinctive legal orders.

Spousal Support is a type of support paid to a dependent spouse when the parties are still married, but are living separately. Alimony is a type of support paid to a spouse or former spouse in conjunction with a decree of divorce or annulment. Essentially, alimony is a post-divorce solution for support which has an amount and a term that is ordered at the discretion of the court.  Spousal support is an “interim” award that typically ends when the divorce decree or agreement is ended, and the court calculates it by using a standard formula.

Example of Spousal Support Calculation:

1. Spouse A has net monthly income of $4,000

2. Spouse A has a $500 alimony obligation from a previous marriage, thus adjusted to $3,500

3. Spouse B has a net monthly income of $1,800

4. Spouse A exceeds the net monthly income of B by a difference of $1,700

5. 40% of 1,700 = $680

6. $680 is the monthly spousal support amount

As mentioned above, the court takes several factors and considerations into account with support orders as follows:

  • The income levels of both parties.
  • The physical, mental and emotional health of each.
  • Short or long-term income sources or benefits such as pensions, insurance and such.
  • Any inheritances that may apply.
  • The length of time that the marriage lasted.
  • The “level” or “standard” of living that was realized during the marriage
  • The educational and occupational levels of the parties
  • Any assets that each may have brought with them into the marriage initially.
  • Possible misconduct or abuse inflicted during the marriage and more…

Have you and/or your spouse decided to end your marriage? Philadelphia spousal support attorneys at The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. compassionately practices on behalf of her clients in the Domestic Relations courts in Montgomery, Delaware, Philadelphia and Chester Counties. She obtained her law degree from Temple University in 1991, which commenced her now 25 year career as a family law specialist. Contact the office today at (610) 645-0100 to coordinate a consultation.


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