Alimony, or spousal support, is seldom meant to be a lifetime means of provision. In Pennsylvania, unless a couple has been married for many decades or the receiving spouse is unable to work, alimony generally lasts long enough for the dependent spouse to become self-sufficient. However, this may be several years, and during that time, circumstances may change.
A divorce decree or settlement establishes the amount of support the dependent spouse will get, if any, and for how long those payments will last. Usually, the court follows a formula or considers certain factors, such as the receiver’s age and health, when arriving at a reasonable amount of alimony. A court may consider modifying that to a higher amount under these or other circumstances:
- The dependent has a financial emergency and needs additional money.
- The payor has gotten a considerable raise or other financial increase.
- Inflation or economic changes make it difficult for the dependent to make ends meet.
- The dependent becomes disabled and can no longer support himself or herself.
- Changes in Pennsylvania laws allow dependents to receive more alimony.
Of course, the payor may also seek a modification to lower his or her payments. For example, if the recipient has remarried or is cohabitating with someone, or if the recipient has experienced a significant improvement in finances, the payor might ask the court to lower the amount of alimony. In some cases, former spouses can work out a temporary modification between themselves, but it is always wise to have the support of the law by obtaining a judge’s signature.