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Can Alimony be Reduced in Pennsylvania?

If you are paying or receiving alimony (or spousal support) that amount may not be set in stone. Either as part of an agreement between the divorcing spouses the two may agree that alimony payments reduce or cease over a period of time. That also may be part of a court order where the issue of alimony is decided by the judge.

In most cases the two parties come to an agreement as to the terms and conditions of the divorce, including amount and duration of alimony. If there is an agreement it becomes part of the divorce order. If the two can't agree the issue can be litigated and decided by a judge.

If there's an agreement between the two unless there's language allowing for a possible, future change in alimony the parties are stuck with that amount. If it's only the judge deciding the alimony that order may be easier to change, but it's generally a difficult thing to do. Under Pennsylvania statute 23 Pa.C.S.A. §3701(e),

Modification and termination - An order entered pursuant to this section (concerning alimony) is subject to further order of the court upon changed circumstances of either party of a substantial and continuing nature whereupon the order may be modified, suspended, terminated or reinstituted or a new order made.

If the ex-spouse paying alimony suffers a significant loss of income, becomes disabled, or takes a voluntary retirement, and unable to continue making the expected income, the court may modify spousal support because of these changed circumstances. That ex-spouse could also ask for a reduction if his or her ex is in a much better financial situation than expected.

If there's an agreement between the parties unless its language states the amount of alimony will or could be reduced in the future, that amount will continue. That was the finding in a 2015 case where the court also interpreted another part of Pennsylvania statutes, 23 Pa.C.S.A. §3105(c),

Certain provisions not subject to modification - In the absence of a specific provision to the contrary appearing in the agreement, a provision regarding the disposition of existing property rights and interests between the parties, alimony, alimony pendente lite (alimony paid during the course of the divorce)...shall not be subject to modification by the court.

If an agreement is involved the party wanting to reduce alimony payments needs to understand that unless the statutory right to modify is clearly stated in that agreement, that right is lost.

Whether you pay or receive alimony, or are considering a divorce, if you have any questions about alimony or you feel you need legal representation to protect your rights, contact our office so we can talk about your situation and how we can help.

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