Can I Stop Paying Alimony if I Lose My Job?
At 4.3%, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 3.7%. Nearly 80,000 workers in the Keystone State have unemployment insurance claims. Large layoffs in 2022 were implemented by Carvana, Zulily, and Peloton. In August 2022, Commonwealth Health announced it would lay off 245 workers when it closes First Hospital in Kingston and its outpatient centers in October.
Pennsylvanians obligated to pay alimony or spousal support are among those caught up in the job losses felt in the state.
If you lose your job, you cannot decide on your own to stop paying court-ordered support. Your first action is to contact an attorney at Scaringi Law to petition the court for a spousal support modification.
Spousal Support and Alimony Determinations
The law provides three different types of support for estranged or former spouses. Spousal support is paid from one spouse to another after separation but before the divorce decree is entered. Alimony pendente lite is paid for support between filing the divorce complaint and receiving the final decree. Final alimony is support paid after the divorce is final.
Spousal support and alimony pendente lite, if awarded, is based on a formula established in Pennsylvania Code. The net incomes of the obligor spouse (the one paying) and the obligee spouse are determining factors. Unlike support provided during the marriage, alimony is not linked to a specific formula. Instead, the amount of alimony is at the discretion of the court, but income is certainly a consideration.
Grounds to Modify Alimony or Spousal Support
The court may consider changing a support order if the underlying income on either side changes. It’s important to note that spousal, alimony pendente lite, and alimony can be modified by Court Order, unless the parties agreed, typically in a Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement, that such support is unmodifiable.
Grounds to ask the court to modify an existing support or alimony order include the following:
- The change in circumstances is substantial.
- The change in circumstances is continuing.
- Obligor spouse is involuntarily separated from their job.
- The obligor spouse contracts a serious illness or is disabled.
Based on the information presented, a judge can decide to modify, suspend, or terminate the support or alimony award.
Voluntary Employment Separation
A spouse choosing to leave a job will typically have a modification request rejected. The courts are familiar with tactics that some people use to minimize or eliminate their support obligations.
A judge has the power to impute income, meaning they can estimate how much the spouse should and could be earning. Imputed income can be used in establishing spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or alimony.
The judge will also typically dismiss the petition for modification if the person was fired for cause.
Permanent Post-Divorce Alimony Is Rare
Not all circumstances lend themselves to alimony modification. Alimony is rarely permanent, however. Long-term alimony is generally only awarded in cases where a spouse has serious health problems, is disabled, or is of advanced age.
Payments to a spouse after a divorce is typically considered to be rehabilitative. The timeframe for support is typically months or a few years as the receiving spouse receives the experience, education, or training necessary to support themselves. The requesting spouse must demonstrate to the court that alimony is necessary.
Courts evaluate 17 factors in alimony determinations, including the following:
- The length of the marriage
- The assets and liabilities of both spouses
- The earning capacity of both spouses
- The ages of the spouses
- The property brought into the marriage by both spouses
- The marital misconduct of either spouse
The judge will also determine how alimony should be paid, either a lump sum or monthly installments.
Modify Alimony or Support Payments with Experienced Legal Counsel
Scaringi Law has experienced attorneys who help Pennsylvanians modify or terminate their alimony obligations. Pennsylvania law requires “substantial” change to modify an order, but the law does not define what the term means. We build and present a strong case demonstrating substantial changes in our client’s circumstances.
Schedule your free alimony case consultation at Scaringi Law by calling (717) 775-7195 or reaching us online.