One of the top questions our separating or divorcing clients in Doylestown ask is: “How is the amount of spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL) or alimony calculated?”
Spousal support and APL are calculated pursuant to the statutory Pennsylvania support guidelines. See Rule 1910.16-4Support Guidelines. Calculation of Support Obligation. Formula. Although there may be grounds for deviating from the norm in certain cases, the vast majority of individuals receive the guideline amount.
If there are no minor children at issue, spousal support and APL are calculated by multiplying the difference between the parties’ net monthly incomes by 40%. If there are minor children at issue and the payee is the primary custodian of the minor children, then the income differential is reduced by the amount of the payor’s monthly child support obligation, and the result is multiplied by 30%.
Below are 2 examples that best explain how spousal support and APL are calculated in a Doylestown divorce where one spouse’s income is significantly less than the other spouse’s income, and such income inferior spouse also is the primary custodian of the parties’ children, where applicable.
Spousal Support/APL Calculation with No Dependent Children
If husband’s net monthly income is $5,000, and wife’s net monthly income of $1,500 (the result of years spent outside of the workforce while the parties’ children were minors), then the difference between the parties’ net monthly incomes is $3,500 ($5,000 – $1,500 = $3,500). The $3,500 difference is multiplied by 40%, resulting in $1,400. Therefore, pursuant to the Pennsylvania support guidelines, husband would pay wife $1,400/month in spousal support or APL, which would be taxable income to wife and tax deductible for husband.
Spousal Support/APL Calculation with Dependent Children
Using the above example, if there are dependent children and husband is paying $1,000 per month in child support, then said $1,000 is deducted from the income differential before determining the spousal support or APL amount ($3,500 – $1,000 = $2,500). The $2,500 is multiplied by 30%, resulting in $750. Thus, husband would pay $750 in spousal support or APL to wife, for a total monthly support obligation of $1,750, of which only the $750 is taxable income to wife and tax deductible for husband.
The amount of alimony, on the other hand, is dependent the various factors set forth in the applicable Pennsylvania statute, and there is no set formula for purposes of calculating the amount. Factors, such as the length of the marriage, the spouses’ relative incomes and earning capacities, the parties’ standard of living during the marriage, etc., are just some of the factors Pennsylvania courts are required to consider when determining whether alimony should be paid and, if so, how much.
Property Division – Equitable Division
Regardless of whether a spouse receives any type of support from the other, marital assets and debts will be divided as a result of the divorce. Parties can agree to divide the assets and debts without court involvement, but it is best to have an experienced divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania help draft the comprehensive agreement between parties.
If the parties cannot divide their assets and debts amicably, courts will have to determine how same are divided through a process called equitable distribution, and equitable does not mean equal (50/50). Rather, courts will consider multiple factors when dividing the marital estate, and one party may receive more than half of the marital estate. See Property Division in Doylestown Divorces, a Concern for Stay at Home Spouses and Moms.