With the Center for Disease Control reporting 3.2 divorces per every 1,000 people, divorce is not a unique occurrence, but every divorce itself is individual, personal and emotional.
When emotions run high, it is helpful to have some facts on hand as you work your way through the divorce process. However, it is all too easy to be swayed by common myths, especially when it comes to alimony and spousal support. Here are some common myths we'll debunk to help you navigate your divorce.
Myth No. 1: Alimony and spousal support are different – or are they?
The two terms are often interchangeable, and it depends on the state in which the divorce takes place. So, let's clear up some definitions. In Pennsylvania, spousal support is money paid by a spouse to the other spouse based upon their cohabitation status. A divorce does not have to be filed to obtain spousal support, and the amount is determined by a formula.
Temporary alimony is alimony that is received before a final divorce decree has been entered and is used to support someone for a limited time while the divorce is pending. Alimony is paid after the entry of a final divorce decree. There is no set formula for how much someone will receive, though many factors go into the decision.
Myth No. 2: Alimony is an out-of-date concept and irrelevant in this age of two-income families.
Though many families are indeed two-income, one spouse often has foregone his or her own earning capabilities for the greater good of the family unit to take care of more of the everyday needs, errands and child care. While at one time wives were the main homemakers and the most common recipients of alimony, modern families often look much different. For example, a father can serve as the primary caregiver or a marriage can have same-sex spouses. In such cases, men can be awarded alimony.
Myth No. 3: Alimony is certain.
While it is true that it is not outdated, it most certainly is not a given either. No one is automatically entitled to alimony, and it may not be awarded at all. There are 11 factors used to divide property and 17 factors used for an alimony determination. The court may allow alimony as it deems reasonable, and it only does so if it finds alimony is necessary.
Myth No. 4 Permanent alimony lasts for a lifetime.
This is not necessarily so. The 17 factors used to determine alimony also determine how long it is granted. It does end with the death of the recipient and 'may' end upon the recipient cohabitating with a partner or remarrying. An order of alimony may be for a definite or indefinite period of time.
Myth No. 5 Alimony payment can be avoided if I quit my job or move out of the state or country.
Not only are these suggestions unethical, it is extremely difficult to get out of payment and highly unlikely any of these scenarios would work. There are laws and procedures in place to enforce divorce decrees across borders, and sanctions for disobeying court orders. Furthermore, in the case of a voluntary reduction in income, courts can enforce support obligations as if the reduction never occurred.
Myth No. 6 It is selfish to either ask for alimony or to fight it.
Each party has a right to look out for himself and herself and protect their own assets and ability to take care of their household. Each divorce situation is unique and individual. It is imperative to use a competent lawyer to both educate and represent you in such an emotional and complicated process.
At Shafer Law Firm, we have several skilled attorneys able to handle any of your needs. Contact us for more information.
Be sure to check out our commonly asked divorce questions download below:
About the Author: Kyle M. Janes
Kyle grew up in Meadville and attended Meadville Area Senior High. He attended college at Allegheny College. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Kyle returned to Meadville to serve the community where he grew up.
Kyle has a diverse family law practice, including divorce, support, custody, juvenile dependency, adoption, pre-nuptial agreements, protection from abuse, and other domestic relations issues. His compassion for his clients and his knowledge of the law allow him to work on a full range of cases, from simple to complex.