Calculating Spousal Support: The Most Complicated Math Problem Of Your Life

We all learn 2+2=4 and y=mx+b, but none of the math you learned in school will prepare you for the number crunching that comes with divorce. Legal math is unlike any other math you will ever encounter.

There is a lot of wiggle room in legal math, especially in the family law context. Rather than having formulas and equations we can plug numbers into and calculate a precise answer when calculating spousal support (aka alimony), we have guidelines.

Furthermore, there is no single right or wrong answer. Every result is negotiable, and can change depending on the circumstances each divorcing couple faces.

No Formulas, No Equations, Just A Bunch of Factors

When calculating spousal support, the Pennsylvania courts are required to consider different factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The relative earnings of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s earning potential
  • The contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The age and physical and mental health of each spouse
  • All sources of income of each spouse
  • The relative assets and liabilities of each spouse
  • The relative needs of each spouse
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony is capable of self-support through employment
  • The contributions of one spouse as a homemaker in the marriage

There is a lot of room for debate over each of these factors, let alone the ultimate outcome — whether to award spousal support, and if so how much and for how long. Divorcing spouses often fight over earning potential or accuse the other side of hiding assets or income. Even the difference between an asset and income is hotly debated. 

Asset or Income? It Makes A Big Difference.

Assets are divided up at the time of divorce, while income is used to calculate future spousal support payments. For example, a house is clearly an asset, and money received from a renter is obviously income. But should the income generating property be treated like an asset — sold off, and the proceeds divided up? 

Or should the property be held by one spouse and the future income divided up? Deciding how to treat the property is going to have a big impact on the amount of money the former couple has now, and in the future. 

We’ve Seen This One Before

There are numerous issues that arise when negotiating or litigating a separation agreement, specifically when it comes to spousal support and the equitable division of assets and income. Working with an experienced attorney can help you figure out what your options are, and map out the way each choice you make will shape your future. 

Attorney Gary Swavely has helped countless couples in the Reading, PA area do the complicated legal math required when splitting up. If you are at a similar point in your life, he may be able to help you.