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What factors are relevant when determining spousal support?

In a Pennsylvania divorce, decisions on how to divide assets, who will get the marital home, the method by which to transfer property, and the discovery of hidden assets all might come to the forefront as the process moves forward. However, when looking at certain complex matters, it is easy to forget the basic tenets of a case. The amount of support and how it is determined from the supporting spouse to the receiving spouse can frequently be obscured. Knowing the relevant factors when the amount of support - also known as alimony - is decided upon is a major factor in any case.

The court must decide whether support is necessary, how long it should last, how much it will be, and how it will be paid. The following will be factors: the earnings and the earning capacities of the parties; how old the parties are as well as their physical, emotional and mental conditions; how they earn their income with medical benefits, insurance, retirement and more; what the expectancies and inheritances are of the parties, if any; how long the marriage lasted; if one party contributed to the education of the other or helped with training and other ways to increase earning power; and the extent of the earning power, any expenses and financial obligations that will be influenced when caring for a minor child.

Also important are: the standard of living that had been established while the couple was married; the education of the parties and how long it will take for the supported party to garner necessary education or training to find a suitable job; assets and liabilities; property that each party brought into the union; what each party needs; if there was any marital misconduct by either side while the couple was married with special attention paid to abuse; tax ramifications linked to the award; if the party who seeks to receive support does not have sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs; and if the party that seeks support is capable or not of supporting him or herself through employment.

These issues can be contentious, agreeable or somewhere in between. It depends on the circumstances. Having a grasp of how the law decides on what is important when the decision on spousal support is made is imperative from the start. Having advice from an experienced legal professional is a wise first step.

Source: legis.state.pa.us, "Chapter 37 -- Alimony and Support -- 3701. Alimony. (b) Factors relevant.," accessed on Jan. 3, 2017

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