Chester County Spousal Support Lawyer
Determining Spousal Support in West Chester Divorces
While going through a divorce, one spouse may be legally required to make payments to their soon-to-be-ex up until the date a divorce is finalized. Spousal support can be a contentious matter while going through a divorce, as one member may not feel that payments are enough or are too high. While Pennsylvania courts try to make fair, balanced decisions about spousal support payments, it is important to have a legal representative at your side throughout your divorce to ensure that you are receiving or paying the right amount.
If you are in the midst of a Chester County divorce, you should reach out to an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. With more than 25 years of experience, our lead Chester County spousal support attorney can thoroughly explain to your rights during a divorce and advocate for your best interests, from how your marital assets are divided to the amount of spousal support required by the court. To schedule a free consultation, contact our firm at (610) 645-0100.
Spousal Support vs. Alimony
While you may have heard spousal support and alimony used interchangeably, there are some key differences to keep in mind. In Pennsylvania, spousal support refers to payments made by one spouse to the other until a divorce is finalized, whereas alimony payments are made begin after a divorce is finalized and continue until a certain date. Both are designed to keep one member in a divorce from becoming financially destitute and allow them time to get back on their feet after a divorce. It is possible for spousal support to lead into traditional alimony payments, but these decisions are ultimately up to the court.
When Can You Receive Spousal Support?
Spousal support is typically awarded in divorce cases where one member is financially dependent on their soon-to-be-ex-spouse and can begin as early as the date of separation, lasting until the official date of your divorce. Courts can require one member to pay spousal support payments to a dependent spouse if it is clear that they will not be able to pay for rent, food, and daily expenses during divorce proceedings. These payments are designed to provide for a certain standard of living a spouse enjoyed during a marriage.
Chester County courts will look at several factors when deciding if spousal support is necessary and how much should be paid. First, you must establish that you are a dependent spouse and require the support of your soon-to-be-ex. Typically, the courts will look at your current income to determine if you can receive support, but they can also consider:
- If you are currently employed
- Your current education level and marketable skills
- Whether or not you have an illness or disability that would affect your financial state
- Your standard of living during your marriage
- If you acted as the primary caretaker of your children or other dependents during your marriage
- The duration of your marriage
Spousal support is not automatic, and you must petition the court to receive payments. To begin, you must first submit a “support action” with the Chester County Domestic Relations Office, located at 201 W. Market Street, Suite 3400, PO Box 2746, West Chester, PA 19380-0991. The court will then schedule an intake interview where you will need to provide specific documentation and explain why you require spousal support payments. The court will review this information and make a decision either way, but you can also have your support action submitted by a divorce lawyer. Working with an attorney is your best option when filing for spousal support, as we can review your financial documentation and advocate for your best interests with the court.
How Is Spousal Support Calculated?
Spousal support is often required to ensure that one member in a divorce can cover basic necessities during the divorce proceeding and enjoy the standard of living that they did during their marriage. Typically, Chester County courts will compare your income to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s calculating the size of the payments, but they will also consider:
- If either spouse receives money from a pension or retirement fund
- If either spouse has recently received an inheritance or income from a trust
- The education and skill level of each spouse
- How long you were married
- If either spouse has any health conditions, including physical and mental illnesses
- The standard of living you enjoyed in your marriage
- Non-marital assets prior to your marriage
- Whether or not one spouse committed abuse or adultery
Once the court has taken all of these factors into consideration, they will follow a specific formula set down by Pennsylvania law to determine if there is a sizable difference between monthly incomes for either side of a divorce. If there is a difference, the court may require spousal support payments equal to the difference; however, if the payments are not enough to cover the dependent spouse’s expenses, the payments can be increased.
In addition, payments can change drastically if you have dependent children, which would lead to child support in addition to spousal support.
Can Spousal Support Change?
Divorces can become drawn out, especially in high-asset divorces where there is a lot of deliberation and debate about marital property. This can significantly add to one spouse’s expenses and put a large amount of financial pressure on the paying spouse. In these instances, the paying spouse can request a spousal support modification if they feel the current payments are too expensive or if there is a significant change in their income.
Spousal support is designed to be fair and reasonable, but it is completely possible for payments to become too large for one spouse to handle. If you are having issues making spousal support payments, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney at Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. Our founding attorney can review your financial situation and advocate before the Chester County courts to have your payments modified or terminated if necessary. They will often do so if you were demoted at work, lost your job, suffered a sudden injury or illness, or are retiring. In addition, if the dependent spouse committed adultery prior to your separation or spousal abuse against you, they would be barred from receiving payments.
Reliable Legal Guidance During a Divorce
At the end of the day, divorce is a financial matter that can significantly impact every aspect of your life. As personal as marriages are, they are often more akin to a business partnership. You have to divide assets, determine property rights, and come to terms about spousal support and alimony payments. If you and your former partner have chosen to get a divorce, you will need the aid of a knowledgeable and experienced Chester County divorce lawyer to ensure your rights are protected throughout the proceedings.
Spousal support is a complicated matter, and you do not want to deal with this issue on your own. Instead, reach out to the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. Our lead attorney can utilize her wealth of legal knowledge to review your case and determine the best way for you to move forward. We offer every potential client a free consultation, so there is no cost to reaching out to us at (610) 645-0100 and scheduling a meeting.