When Does a Man Have to Pay Alimony in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania courts can award rehabilitative alimony to help spouses gain self-sufficiency.
Pennsylvania courts can award rehabilitative alimony to help spouses gain self-sufficiency. (Image: job image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com)

Some states bar alimony payments to spouses who were responsible for terminating the marriage or causing the marriage to end. Most states award two types of alimony, temporary or permanent. Pennsylvania courts, however, recognize a third type of alimony award: compensatory. Pennsylvania’s domestic relations law allows for automatic termination of alimony awards if the receiving spouse remarries, begins living with another opposite sex nonrelative or gets married or if either spouse dies.

Understanding Alimony

Alimony court orders require one spouse to pay money to the other spouse for spousal support or maintenance. As a different type of payment than a court-ordered child support payment, there are no state alimony guidelines, and courts generally have discretion in deciding whether to award alimony.

Rehabilitative or Permanent

Rehabilitative alimony is temporary to provide a source of income to a spouse who does not possess the skills required to find employment or the assets required for self-sufficiency. Rehabilitative alimony payments end once that spouse becomes self-sufficient. Permanent alimony provides the receiving spouse with lifelong monetary payments until one spouse dies or the spouse receiving alimony remarries. Pennsylvania courts will order permanent alimony in cases where one spouse may never gain self-sufficiency after the divorce.


In Pennsylvania, compensatory alimony awards are compensation payments from one spouse to the other for the spouse’s contributions during the marriage. Judges will order compensatory alimony to a spouse after reviewing the spouses’ assets and liabilities. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. Judges will try to divide all marital property and debts acquired during the marriage fairly or equitably. If the court believes that one spouse provided the other spouse with a considerable amount of emotional and financial support allowing the other to obtain an education or advance training, the court will order compensatory alimony if it finds the marital assets are not enough to compensate that spouse.


Judges will consider several different factors in deciding whether to award alimony to either husband or wife. Judicial review involves considering the couple's standard of living during the marriage, each spouse's education and earning potential, their ages and their physical and mental health. Courts may also consider the length of the marriage, the reasons for the marriage dissolution and the previously mentioned spousal contributions.

Agreeing to Alimony

In addition to a court order necessitating alimony, husbands must pay alimony if the spouses entered into a binding prenuptial agreement before they married requiring one spouse to pay the other spouse alimony if the marriage terminated. Courts generally uphold prenuptial agreements if they were made at arms-length or parties had equal bargaining power; the contract was executed after full financial disclosure; and the contract was not a result of duress, mistake or fraud. Most courts are more likely to uphold the agreement if each party retained an attorney to review the terms of the agreement.


Since family laws can frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

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