Also known as spousal support, alimony is money that one spouse agrees to pays to another upon their divorce in the interest of financial fairness to both parties. You may think that alimony sounds similar to child support, but there are significant differences between the two.
The primary difference is that alimony is not a given. Courts have the option to award it or not depending on the individual circumstances surrounding the divorce. If you have kids, on the other hand, child support is mandatory so that you can fulfill your parental obligation to provide for the needs of your children. There are three different kinds of alimony that courts in Pennsylvania can award at their discretion.
When one former spouse is financially dependent on the other one, often after many years of marriage, the court may award permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is also called durational alimony, which may be more accurate as the obligation does not necessarily continue until either you or your ex-spouse dies. For example, if your ex-spouse remarries, you may no longer have to pay permanent alimony.
When one spouse took on an extra financial burden to support the family, the court may order reimbursement alimony. For example, if your spouse worked to support you while you went back to school, you may need to pay reimbursement alimony to pay back your tuition. The court may also order you to pay reimbursement alimony if your ex-spouse shouldered the main portion of the marital debt load.
If your spouse has been out of the workforce for a number of years, e.g., staying home to take care of the children, he or she may be unemployable without additional education and training. The court may order rehabilitative alimony for a prescribed, relatively short period of time to allow your ex-spouse to acquire the necessary skills and experience to become self-supporting.