“If a party did not work during the marriage is their ex-spouse liable to pay spousal or child support and is that party able to continue not to have to work?”
In Pennsylvania spousal support is paid usually prior to a divorce action. You can be separated and a party can bring an action for spousal support. During a pending divorce action it’s sometimes called spousal support, but it’s also often called alimony pendente lite, Latin for alimony pending the action. Once a divorce action is completed, if there’s continuing obligations towards the other spouse it’s called alimony.
Both parties have an obligation to support their children in Pennsylvania. If a parent is a stay-at-home mom and there are young children, they’re probably not going to be obligated to go out and work, and their earning capacity is going to be considered zero.
In Pennsylvania, the court will first look at in terms of determining a support order for the children and spouse is each party’s earnings. A party may not be earning anything, yet they may have an earning capacity, so the court’s going to look at earnings or earning capacity, particularly if a party’s not working. In some instances they may look at earning capacity even when somebody has earnings, because the court and the lawyers may argue that that person is underemployed; had a better job and purposely took a low earning job to reduce their support obligation; and therefore should be measured by their earning capacity as opposed to their earnings.
David L. Ladov is a partner and co-chair of the Family Law Group at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. He focuses his practice on divorce, including custody, child support, equitable distribution, abuse and domestic relations. David can be reached at (267) 675-4976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Whitelaw is a managing partner and co-chairman of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP’s Litigation Department and Family Law Group. He has 40 years of experience in practicing family law. Robert can be reached at email@example.com or (215) 665-300.