A major component of the resolution of a divorce is the payment of alimony. The determination is complicated, and is dependent on 17 factors specifically set forth in the Pennsylvania Divorce Code. These factors include: 1) the relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties (that is, the actual earning capability of each party at the time of the award); 2) the ages and physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties; 3) the sources of income of each party, including but not limited to medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits (or winnings); 4) the expectation of an inheritance; 5) the length of time the parties were married; 6) the contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party; 7) the extent to which one party’s earning capacity will be affected by having custody of children; 8) the parties’ standard of living during the marriage; 9) the parties’ relative educations; 10) the relative assets and liabilities of the parties; 11) the property either party had at the time of marriage; 12) the contribution of the spouse as a homemaker; 13) the relative
needs of the parties; 14) any marital misconduct; 15) tax ramifications; 16) whether the party being awarded alimony lacks sufficient assets to provide for their needs; and 17) whether the party seeking alimony is capable of self-support through employment.
The overall purpose of alimony is to effect economic justice, but it is a secondary remedy and applies only if economic justice cannot be achieved by way of a fair distribution between spouses of the property they own. Where appropriate, alimony may be awarded for either a definite or an indefinite period of time. The amount is based on the reasonable needs of the recipient, in accord with the standard of living during the marriage, and the ability of the payor to make payments. The payor does not have an absolute duty to ensure the recipient spouse experiences no decrease in standard of living.