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Can you stop paying alimony when you retire?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2024 | Divorce

In Pennsylvania, courts may order one spouse in a divorce to pay “reasonable” alimony (also known as spousal support) to the other, if necessary, and for as long as deemed necessary. The amount and duration are based on things like both spouses’ income and assets, the receiving spouse’s earning potential and factors that may keep that spouse from being able to work full time or at all.

As more and more couples divorce in their 50s and later, a common concern is what this means for a paying spouse’s ability to retire. What if they’ve reached the age where it’s reasonable to consider retirement, but if they do, they won’t be able to pay their ex what they have been? Can they seek a reduction in their payments?

Generally, if a person who’s paying alimony has reached a reasonable retirement age and wants to retire – at least from full-time work — they have grounds to request a modification to their spousal support order to reduce their payments.

What factors will a judge consider?

Every situation is unique. However, a judge will typically look at things like:

  • How much retirement will affect the payer’s income: For example, what will their post-retirement income look like with Social Security retirement benefits, retirement accounts distributions, investment income and perhaps other income and benefits?
  • Whether retirement is necessary or maybe mandatory: For example, a person who works in a physically challenging job may just no longer be able to handle it. Commercial airline pilots currently have a mandatory retirement age of 65.
  • Whether the alimony recipient made reasonable efforts to become self-sufficient: If they haven’t, a judge may be less inclined to require the payer to continue support payments if they’ve reached retirement age.
  • Whether the recipient spouse has other sources of income: For example, are both exes at an age where the receiving spouse can take retirement account withdrawals or get spousal Social Security benefits? (It’s important to learn more about the latter, as it can be a confusing subject.)

If you’re considering seeking a support modification as you near retirement, it’s crucial to be able to make a compelling case to the court, supported by evidence. With sound legal guidance, you can improve your chances of prevailing.

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