When a couple begins the divorce process, one key element of the settlement is known simply as support; this can be broken down further into child support and spousal support. Child and spousal support is generally defined as the financial support for children, as well as the parent with primary physical custody of the children. Family support payments are generally paid on a weekly/monthly basis and continue on until the youngest child reaches age 18 (in Pennsylvania) or age 19 in New Jersey.
Spousal support, also known as alimony, can also be used to pay back a debt. For example, if a wife worked to put her husband through college, the husband may be ordered to pay tuition reimbursement to the wife as an act of spousal support. This type of spousal support can prevent one party from feeling like the other party has taken financial advantage of their situation while married.
Sometimes, a divorcing couple will agree to a spousal support plan that includes higher payments for the first few years. This type of spousal support gives the receiving party the flexibility to go back to school and complete a degree program. After graduation and entrance into the work force, the monthly payments are reduced to a lower level.
Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey use statewide uniform guidelines to determine the appropriate levels of child support. These guidelines consider some factors such as the incomes of both spouses, number and age of children, length of marriage, ability to work, and general needs. If you would like help determining an estimate of the appropriate level of support, please contact our office for a list of accurate figures based on state guidelines.
Another option that is often used during divorce is that of a temporary alimony agreement, also know as alimony pendente lite, to establish maintenance of lifestyle, protection of assets, obligations of the parties. This agreement is nullified when divorce decree or final judgment of divorce is reached.
The court system determines spousal support amounts with an eye on the factors provided by the Legislature, including length of marriage, prior living standard, presence of young children, employment opportunities available to the spouse requesting support, and the extent to which the supported spouse has contributed to the attainment of education or a professional license by the other spouse.
Temporary spousal support, also known as alimony pendente lite, is sometimes available and can be awarded when one spouse is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other spouse. If child support is also being paid, the amount of spousal support is determined after the guideline level of child support is calculated. Temporary spousal support is used to preserve the status quo and provide the spouse with sufficient income for basic needs in maintaining the parties’ lifestyle.
Spousal support comes with an income tax advantage. The Internal Revenue Code defines all spousal support payments as tax deductible by the paying spouse and “ordinary income” for the recipient spouse. For this reason, negotiated settlements can include a high spousal support number resulting in tax breaks for the paying spouse.
Contact Our Lawyers for Assistance
If you need help creating a fair and livable temporary or long-term support agreement, our lawyers are highly-qualified to provide you with guidance. Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC is committed to ensuring families reach a fair and efficient resolution. Contact our firm to schedule a consultation.