What Are Alimony Orders and Can They Change?
Pennsylvania defines alimony in a few different ways. Knowing when you qualify for which type of alimony can determine how to try to get those orders modified.
When there have been substantial changes in personal circumstances, you may approach the court with an application to modify the spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or alimony orders entered by filing a modification request with the court.
Defining Alimony Types
Alimony can also be defined as spousal support. Two types of alimony are awarded after a couple separates but before a divorce order is finalized: spousal support and alimony pendente lite.
Spousal support is awarded to an income dependent spouse when no divorce is pending but the couple is living in separate homes. Alimony pendente lite can be awarded after a spouse files for divorce but before the judge finalizes that divorce.
Alimony is a form of support paid after a divorce is final, and is determined as part of the division of the property process/divorce.
Short-Term versus Long-Term Support
A court can order “rehabilitative” or “permanent support.” Rehabilitative support is meant to be a short-term expectation, allowing one spouse the ability to pursue employment or gain the skills in order to be self-supportive.
Permanent support isn't all that common, but it is available when a dependent spouse wouldn't be able to reasonably care for themselves without support for the duration of his/her life.
To change the amount, frequency, or interval of alimony payments from one spouse to another after a divorce, there will need to be a clause in the finalized divorce agreement to allow alimony modifications.
Most divorce agreements and final divorce decrees include a modification clause that allows for modification but sometimes the court or the parties can determine or agree that alimony is non-modifiable. An experienced attorney like Susan can help you navigate the process to modify alimony payments, if your alimony agreement or order allows for modification
How Long Do Alimony Payments Last?
The initial term of alimony is set by the Court pursuant to a list of factors. Some counties follow a rule of thumb that a spouse entitled to receive alimony should receive one year of support for every three years of marriage, while other counties apply the factors and set varying terms of alimony based on the specific facts of your case. In addition, alimony can end sooner than the initial term decided by the court if the ex-partner receiving payments remarries, moves in with another adult in a romantic cohabitation relationship, or either party dies.
Why Would You Modify Alimony?
Life is fluid, and there can be extenuating circumstances to make the payment amount set in the finalized agreement impractical. You may have lost your job or been in an accident that diminished your earning potential. Alternatively, your ex-partner may have found a job that pays them more, so they no longer need the alimony support.
Working with an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney can help you through the process of modifying any alimony payments you pay or receive.
What Do You Need to Achieve Support Modifications?
Suppose you feel your circumstances have changed after a final support order. In that case, you may be able to apply to modify the orders pertaining to alimony if you included a clause to allow modification. You'd be able to file a petition to change the alimony order with the domestic relations court that handled your initial divorce.
The Process to Receive Modification of a Court Order
To prove the need to modify family court orders, you'll need to show there was a significant change in your circumstances. Any request to terminate or modify alimony requires that you file to modify your alimony payments with the court.
The court will decide if the change should be approved or denied. Your chances of success depend on how well you can prove a change in circumstances.
Let Gibson Family Law, PLLC Help with Your Alimony Modifications
The last thing you may want to do after reaching the final decision in your case is revisit it. It can be stressful and daunting to review your circumstances alone, but the possible relief from adjusting the alimony order might be worth the stress in the long run.
Relying on an experienced Family Law attorney like Susan Gibson can give you a great chance to reach a new agreement with your ex-partner.
Susan can help you show how your circumstances have changed since the court ruled on your child support, custody, or alimony, and she'll help you build your case.