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How is Alimony in Pennsylvania Determined?

Alimony in Pennsylvania is but one financial aspect of divorce. There are many which you should have a qualified divorce financial professional review

Alimony is a generic term that actually refers to three types of support payments. They are made by the higher earning spouse to the lesser earning spouse:

  • Spousal Support – Awarded to the lesser earning spouse. This is pre-divorce and before either party files a divorce complaint. Can be awarded even if the parties are living in the same house so long as they are separated, i.e., living separate and apart.
  • Alimony Pendente Lite – Support after the divorce complaint is filed and before the divorce is final.
  • Alimony – Payments made once the divorce is finalized for a set period of time per the divorce settlement.

Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are calculated in the same way. Alimony in Pennsylvania is determined by a number of factors but it is often calculated with the same formula.

Basic Calculations

No Minor Children: Spousal support and alimony pendente lite is calculated before child support. It is based on net income. If there are no children, the amount is the difference between 33% of the obligor’s (higher earning spouse’s) and 40% of the obligee’s (lower earning spouse’s) net income. For example,

Obligor’s Monthly Net Income is $15,000; 33% is $5,000

Obligee’s Monthly Net Income is $10,000; 40% is $4,000

Difference = $1000 = Monthly Support

With Minor Children: The same basic formula but the percentages are changed to 25% and 30%, respectively. To illustrate,

Obligor’s Monthly Net Income is $15,000; 25% is $3,750

Obligee’s Monthly Net Income is $10,000; 30% is $3,000

Difference = $750 = Monthly Support

Additionally, there will be a separate amount calculated for child support that will be added to the monthly alimony.

Post-Divorce Alimony Considerations

Many courts use the formulas above. These amount may be modified based on a number of factors, the most important of which are:

  • Difference between spouses’ earnings
  • Ages and health of the parties
  • Sources of income
  • Expectancies, e.g., inheritances
  • Financial needs of the parties
  • Marital misconduct (rarely considered)

Duration of Post-Divorce Alimony

How long alimony will be paid is a discretionary decision that is based on the factors above. The rule of thumb, though, is 1 year for every 3 years of marriage. So, if a couple has been married for 20 years, the lesser earning spouse would expect to receive alimony for 6 – 7 years. If, however, if the lesser earning spouse is near retirement at the end of that period, the court may extend until he or she is able to collect Social Security and/or access retirement funds.

Alimony Buyouts

The vast majority of men and women view alimony with disdain. Who wants to have to write a check to their ex-spouse month after month? Likewise, does anyone like waiting for and worrying about the monthly check they’re expecting from their ex? What happens if the payor dies, loses their job, or becomes disabled? Is he or she going to be obsessing about whether their ex is cohabitating with a new partner? One alternative is to add an offset to the distribution of the assets equal to the present value of the expected alimony payments. So long as there are sufficient assets to cover the amount, this is a win-win for both parties and eliminates the ongoing angst of monthly payments.

Read more on divorce financial considerations here. Alimony in Pennsylvania It can be a messy affair and a CDFA, like those at TruNorth Divorce Solutions, can help you sort out the details.

 

 

 

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How is Child Support in Pennsylvania Determined?

Child support in Pennsylvania (and 36 other states) is centered on the Income Shares Model, which is based on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would have received if the parents lived together. That amount is found to be related to the level of household income and the number of children for food, housing, transportation, clothing, $250 in annual  medical expenses for each child, and miscellaneous items that are needed and provided for by their parents. This amount is expressed by the child support guidelines.

These guidelines may be adjusted by the court based on additional information regarding special needs and obligations, e.g., private schooling or extraordinary medical expenses. The current schedule for monthly child support up to $30,000 combined monthly net income can be found here.

If monthly combined net income is above $30,000 the amount may be increased based on how much it costs to maintain whatever lifestyle the child has become accustomed to without burdening the custodial parent. Generally, when combined monthly parental income exceeds $30,000 (after deductions), the court orders parents to pay the highest basic support obligation for their number of children, plus a percentage of the amount over $30,000.

  • One child: $2,839 plus 8.6 percent of the combined monthly parental income over $30,000
  • Two children: $3,902 plus 11.8 percent
  • Three children: $4,365 plus 12.9 percent
  • Four children: $4,824 plus 14.6 percent
  • Five children: $5,306 plus 16.1 percent
  • Six children: $5,768 plus 17.5 percent

Parents’ Individual Payments. Child support in Pennsylvania is paid to the custodial parent. If shared custody, support is paid by the parent with the higher net income. When the parents share custody such that the support-paying parent has more than 30% of overnights with the children, a reduction is made accordingly.

Earning capacity may be considered if higher than actual income. Each parent’s contribution takes into account a “self-support reserve” that represents the poverty level of one person as well as an assumption that the children will spend up to 30% of their time with the support-paying (aka “obligor”) parent.

Net Income. Net income is based on a six month average of a party’s income and includes income from any source, including employee wages, businesses owned, pensions and other retirement, estates and trust, social security, tax refunds, awards and verdicts, and alimony that is intended to finance the support-receiving parent (aka “obligee”). Gross income is reduced by mandatory payments, e.g., taxes, FICA, and union dues but not discretionary deductions, e.g., retirement contributions. It may be further lessened by alimony paid to a former spouse or child support for other children of the obligor parent.

Basic Child Support Calculation

The basic child support calculation is determined by

  1. The child support guidelines that take into account the parents’ combined net income and the number of children (see the PA Child Support Guidelines)
  2. The parents’ respective percentages of net income
  3. Adjustments for shared custody
  4. Additional expenses, e.g., child care, health insurance, medical over $250 per child
  5. Other adjustments, e.g., alimony, other children, extraordinary medical expenses, a new spouse’s income. A basic calculator can be found here.

Example Calculations

Example 1: Basic Calculation. Consider the hypothetical case of Keith and Audrey. Keith is the primary physical custodian of their child and has a monthly income of $2,500 after deductions. Audrey has a monthly income of $3,500 after deductions.

Keith and Audrey add their monthly net incomes together to get $6,000.

Keith divides his monthly earnings of $2,500 by $6,000 to get 0.4167, meaning he earns 41.67 percent of the combined income. Audrey divides her earnings of $3,500 by $6,000 to get 0.5833, or 58.33 percent.

Keith divides his monthly earnings of $2,500 by $6,000 to get 0.4167, meaning he earns 41.67 percent of the combined income. Audrey divides her earnings of $3,500 by $6,000 to get 0.5833, or 58.33 percent.

Audrey, the parent with partial physical custody, multiplies $1,761 by 0.5833 to find she must pay Keith $1,027 a month.

Example 2: Shared Custody. Audrey spends three days a week with the kids (40 percent of parenting time), so she qualifies for a 10 percent reduction. She takes her portion of the combined monthly income, 58.33 percent (from Step 3) and decreases it by 10 percent to get 48.33 percent. She multiplies the new percentage by the combined basic support obligation from Step 4 to get her reduced amount: $851 (.4833 X $1,761).

Example 3: Low Income. Consider Paul, who has a monthly net income of $1,150 and must pay support for two children. The support schedule shows the obligation based on his income and number of children is $154 due to his low income status.

The other parent has a monthly net income of $1,000, making their combined monthly parental income $2,150. According to the chart, their combined obligation is $735. With 53.49 percent of the income (see Step 2 for calculation instruction), Paul’s individual obligation would be $393.15, per the guideline formula.

Paul will pay $154 per month in support, the lesser of the two results.

Example 4: High Income. Fern and Roger have two children and a combined monthly income of $35,000. They find the highest support obligation on the schedule for their number of children is $3,902.

Next, they multiply $5,000, the amount over $30,000, by 11.8 to get $59,000, then divide by 100 to determine they must add $590 to the amount from the schedule.

They add $590 to $3,902 to determine their adjusted combined support obligation is $4,492.

To calculate the amount he must pay as the partial parent, Roger multiplies $4,492 by his percentage of the monthly income, which is 52 percent (see Step 3). Roger owes Fern $2,336 monthly (4,492 X 0.52) before deviations for shared custody and other expenses.

Read more on divorce financial considerations here.

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Top Three Divorce Settlement Agreement Mistakes

When it comes to divorce, there are many areas where we feel vulnerable. When it comes to the divorce settlement agreement or property agreement, we rely on the advice and judgment of our trusted advisors. What would you rather hear: “everything will be okay, don’t worry,” or “things will be okay but you’re going to have some tough choices to make?” I feel strongly that there are too few divorce professionals who truly tell it like it is. They either tell you what you want to hear so you’ll continue paying their outrageous hourly fees or they simply don’t know any better. Either way, they’ll lead you to some stupid, easily avoidable mistakes.

Here are a few things that I see repeatedly after settlements are agreed to and the judge has signed off on the divorce. Remember, unlike alimony and child support, property settlement agreements are final—you don’t get to go back again to re-do them!

These divorce settlement mistakes can be very costly and easily avoided by using the right professionals to support you in your divorce.

Mistake #3: The settlement doesn’t consider taxes—at all!

 We all know that Uncle Sam will dive into our pockets at every opportunity. When it comes to divorce settlement agreements, not all assets are alike and tax implications do make a difference! What people often find is that the tax burden on their half of the marital assets is significantly higher than their spouse’s, making their “half” of the assets worth significantly less than they thought. Don’t expect your attorney to know this! Attorneys are not trained as accountants or divorce financial analysts and a lot of them don’t bother to warn you of that. Buyer beware.

Mistake #2: Pension is split “50/50”

Over and over I see divorce decrees that order pensions split 50/50 but no one has any idea what will happen when payout begins or what that means under various circumstances. When do you start collecting? Is there an option to take a lump sum? Will there be a cost of living increase each year? What if you or your spouse dies? Will it keep paying? Will it double? When I ask these questions, no one has ANY IDEA what the answers are. These are questions that should be asked during the valuation of the pension and preparation of the divorce settlement agreement. How can you possibly agree to a settlement without understanding something so crucial to your retirement? Again, do not expect attorneys or non-CDFA® mediators to be of much help here.

Mistake #1: Marital home is kept by one spouse who is unable to afford it

 One of the most common divorce settlement mistakes I see time and time again is one spouse keeping the marital house they really can’t afford. I understand how one can get emotionally tied to the family home and want to stay. Before really considering this option, though, you must do a realistic budget that takes into account upkeep, property taxes, improvements, homeowner’s insurance, replacing the water heater, fixing the roof after the tree falls, etc. I have witnessed where one or two years down the road the spouse who “won the house” has run out of cash and realized that they can’t sell a window to put food on the table, they can’t refinance because now they don’t have enough income to do so, and they have no choice but to sell. The selling costs are about 7% and there’ll be capital gains taxes after the sale – all of which would have been split 50/50 with the ex if they had sold the house as part of the divorce. Ugh, that was not the smartest decision, right?

These are but a few of the financial divorce settlement mistakes that are avoidable but too often made in divorce settlement agreements. Truthfully, you can’t be expected to know all the ins and outs, nor should a lawyer. Just realize you don’t know what you don’t know and that lawyers are in generally the same boat. You can hire a CDFA® on an hourly basis to supplement your lawyer or mediator’s proposed settlements or use a CDFA-Mediator who can advise you and your spouse on both the short and long-term implications of the decisions you are making. Either way, just make sure you’re fully informed before you sign the papers!

 

 

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How is Alimony Determined in Maryland?

Alimony is but one financial aspect of divorce and there are many for which you should have a qualified divorce financial professional review.

Alimony is a generic term that actually refers to two types of support payments made by the higher earning spouse to the lesser earning spouse:

  • Alimony Pendente Lite – Support after the divorce complaint is filed and before the divorce is final
  • Alimony – Payments mad once the divorce is finalized for a set period of time per the divorce settlement

Alimony in Maryland must be awarded before divorce. Alimony awards are almost always rehabilitative, i.e., temporary. On rare occasions, e.g., when a spouse is disabled or too old to enter the workforce, an alimony award may be indefinite. Courts look at many factors when determining if alimony should be granted, especially the ability of the lesser-earning spouse to be wholly or partly self-supporting and how long it will take for him or her to get the necessary education or training to be self-supporting. Standard of living, length of marriage, and a number of other items may also be considered.  The People’s Law Library of Maryland has a “quiz” to help you determine the likelihood of an alimony award in your specific divorce. Access it here: Maryland PPL Alimony Quiz.

There is no formula for alimony in the state of Maryland and alimony awards are not dependent on whether child support will be paid. However, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has developed guidelines and a calculator for states that do not have their own.

Alimony Buyouts

The vast majority of men and women view alimony with disdain—who wants to have to write a check to their ex-spouse month after month? Likewise, does anyone like waiting for and worrying about the monthly check they’re expecting from their ex? What happens if the payor dies, loses their job, or becomes disabled? Is he or she going to be obsessing about whether their ex is cohabitating with a new partner? One alternative is to add an offset to the distribution of the assets equal to the present value of the expected alimony payments. So long as there are sufficient assets to cover the amount, this is a win-win for both parties and eliminates the ongoing angst of monthly payments.

Read more on divorce financial considerations here.

 

Get A free Consultation

484.321.6990

hello@trunorthdivorce.com