Divorce, alimony, child support, and lump sums — many people struggle through the details and consequences of these systems as they pursue a legal separation or divorce. 

In many marriages, one spouse earns more than the other. The higher-earning spouse may have relied on the other spouse to hold a less time-consuming and lower-paying job and do more of the household tasks. Similarly, one spouse may have given up career growth to be a stay-at-home parent and save the family money on childcare costs. 

When these couples divorce, the higher-earning spouse is often responsible for some form of spousal support. This support can help the other party maintain their living standard while pursuing education and career growth.  

The amount and timeline of alimony payments depend on several factors, including the length of the marriage. In some cases, higher-earning spouses can be responsible for paying permanent alimony to their spouses. 

Child support is intended to financially support a child, not the adult. There are several types of alimony and child support payment plans. Whether you should advocate for lump-sum or monthly payments in your court case depends on specific considerations. 

Benefits of a Lump-Sum Payment 

Guaranteed Money 

A lump-sum payment could be a wise choice if your ex-spouse is unstable or has a history of money trouble. It can eliminate the monthly stress of not knowing if your ex-spouse will make the required payment.  

Protects You Against Your Spouse’s Future Financial Troubles 

With uncertain financial times, there is no guarantee your ex-spouse will be able to continue making the agreed-upon monthly payments. Their business may go under, or they may make bad investments. A lump-sum payment ensures you will not be affected even if your ex comes into major financial trouble. 

Support Your Future 

Perhaps you have a major financial goal. Maybe you want to open your own business, buy a house, or go back to school. A lump-sum settlement can help you make that investment stress-free without waiting to receive alimony payments. 

Benefits of Monthly Payments 

Most of the benefits of lump sums are best suited to couples negotiating alimony. Many attorneys do not recommend a lump-sum payment for child support payments and instead recommend monthly payments. 

Best Interest of a Child 

Child support is designed to support a child’s basic life necessities, like food, housing, and education. Because these necessities remain constant throughout a child’s life, monthly payments tend to make the most sense to support a child’s best interests. 

If you have concerns about your ex-spouse’s ability to commit to monthly child support payments, an attorney can help discuss your options and rights. 

Contact an Experienced Attorney 

Divorce cases are challenging enough emotionally. Adding in the stress of negotiating spousal support and child support payments can feel very overwhelming for many people. An experienced legal team, like the lawyers at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can help you answer any questions you have about divorce, alimony, child support, and lump sums.

Alimony is support paid by one ex-spouse to the other. Depending on the circumstances, it can start during the divorce process and last a spouse’s lifetime. Lives change over time, and alimony can too, either with the parties’ agreement or a court order. 

The alimony amount is usually based on the parties’ incomes and is often determined by the couple’s financial situation. The amount may be negotiated up or down in light of how the marital assets are split. 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., often helps clients with alimony modifications. The only permanent thing is change. An alimony award that may have been fair and reasonable five years ago may need to be changed today. 

What Types of Alimony Are There? 

Alimony is usually considered rehabilitative or reimbursement, though an ex-spouse may get both, based on the case’s facts: 

  • Reimbursement: Alimony that is meant to pay back one spouse for aiding the other with a significant expense, like education or starting a business. 
  • Rehabilitative: This is usually awarded for a given time so the receiving spouse has time and resources to receive training or education to become self-supporting. 

If there is little chance that an ex-spouse will support themselves in the future, the party may be awarded “permanent” alimony. Based on how the parties’ lives play out post-divorce, this “permanent” alimony could stop if the person receiving it remarries or lives with a new partner. 

How Can a Party Modify the Alimony Amount They Pay or Receive? 

Unless they previously agreed otherwise, all types may be modified due to either party’s changed circumstances. It will not be allowed if there is no mention of future alimony modifications in a divorce agreement. 

If one party wants to increase or decrease the payments and cannot resolve the issue with the other, it can be decided in court. Under Pennsylvania law

“An order entered pursuant to this section 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.”  

When making this decision, a court will consider 17 factors used to determine if alimony is necessary and, if so, the amount when the couple divorced. Some of those factors include: 

  • The parties’ relative earnings and earning capacities  
  • The parties’ ages and their physical, mental, and emotional conditions  
  • The parties’ income sources  
  • The extent the person’s earning power, expenses, or financial obligations will be affected by being a minor child’s custodian  
  • The parties’ standard of living during the marriage 
  • The parties’ assets and liabilities 
  • The property brought to the marriage by either party 
  • The parties’ relative needs 

Common grounds for an ex-spouse paying alimony to try to stop or reduce it include a loss of employment and developing a long-term physical or mental disability. A party receiving alimony could ask for more if the party paying it has a substantial and continuing income increase.  

No matter which side you are on, if you are asking the court to modify alimony payments, there must be evidence to support your claims because there is a process to go through, and you have the burden of proof. Speculation and opinions will not help. We can obtain evidence concerning your position through the discovery process. If necessary, we can also retain experts to analyze what we found. 

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., if you have questions about or you need legal assistance with an alimony modification. Call us at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.  

Married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support as provided by law. Similar to child support, spousal support will be calculated based on a statewide guideline. Without children, spousal support is calculated by multiplying the paying party’s income by 33% and the receiving party’s income by 40%. The difference of these figures would be the support award. If there is also a child support order, spousal support should be calculated first. Multiply the paying party’s income by 25% and the receiving party’s income by 30% and then calculate the difference. Child support is then calculated with the spousal support award being deducted from the party paying spousal support and added to the party receiving spousal support.

There are some defenses to paying support to your spouse. One exception to the duty to pay spousal support is where the spouse seeking support has engaged in conduct that would constitute grounds for a fault-based divorce such as adultery. It is up to the spouse who is objecting to a spousal support award to prove a fault ground for divorce by clear and convincing evidence. Alimony pendente lite (APL), a form of spousal support payable while a divorce is pending, does not allow the same defenses. The purpose of APL is to allow the income dependent spouse to participate in the divorce action and fault is not a factor. Alimony, spousal support paid after entry of the divorce decree, can be terminated by proving the spouse receiving alimony is living with a new lover or is remarried. Consult with one of our experienced attorneys to understand the different types of support that may be awarded between spouses.

Marital property is defined as assets or debts acquired during the marriage. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution between the parties as part of a divorce action. There is a process to acquire information on potential marital property if you are unsure of what assets and debts would comprise marital property in your case. Discovery is the process of obtaining information from the opposing party in the course of a lawsuit. Discovery is allowed in any divorce case which includes a request for equitable distribution or alimony. The information requested in discovery must be relevant to the case. In divorce, the court gives much leeway as to what is relevant since the factors for equitable distribution allow for broadness. As a practical matter however, you will want to focus on assets and debts and their values as of date of marriage, date of separation and present as these are the important dates with respect to valuation.

Formal discovery methods include interrogatories, depositions, production requests, subpoenas to produce documents, and requests for admission. Interrogatories are a written set of questions for the other party to answer under oath. A production request identifies which documents a party is seeking. Subpoenas are utilized as well when it is necessary to get information directly from the source in the instance a party does not have it or will not cooperate in turning it over. Authorizations can be acquired in lieu of a subpoena if a party has not produced the documents themselves but is willing to cooperate in signing the authorization for the opposing party to do the legwork in obtaining the documentation. Due to the expense to the parties for formal discovery, parties often agree to exchange information informally. Consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the marital property in your case and the best way to obtain the necessary information to effectively handle your case.  By April M. Townsend

Pensions, as well as other retirement plans, are often one of the assets up for division in a divorce. The court will equitably divide the marital portion of a pension plan after considering all the relevant factors in equitable distribution. The marital portion of a plan would be the portion that accrued from the date of marriage through the date of separation. In some cases, the entire pension will be marital depending on the timing of the marriage alongside the start date of the pension plan. A qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO for short, is a document used to effectuate division of certain retirement benefits.

A QDRO can facilitate a tax-free transfer of retirement benefits from one party to their new or soon-to-be ex-spouse. The receiving spouse would then be taxed as they withdraw the money as the tax laws provide. The exact nuances of how the plan/benefit is split and what options are available will vary based on the type of plan. It is always advisable to review the procedures for the specific plan you may need distributed to understand what their rules and policies are when it comes to splitting a participant’s benefits via QDRO in the context of a divorce. You will also benefit from having an experienced family law attorney review the terms of the QDRO before you sign off on it and submit it to the Plan Administrator for implementation. Finally, most plans have very specific requirements as far as how the language of the QDRO is to be worded in order for it to be accepted and processed. At a minimum, a QDRO should identify the parties, the plan at issue, and the amount going to the receiving party either as a lump sum or a percentage of the total benefit. It is wise to enlist the services of an expert that routinely drafts QDROs to ensure the language is correct and all requirements are met.   By April M. Townsend

Alimony is support paid to an ex-spouse following divorce. The amount of alimony is usually based on the incomes of the parties. It is not uncommon for the amount of alimony to be considered in the context of the equitable distribution of marital assets, if any. Unless otherwise stated by agreement, the amount of alimony may be modified due the changed circumstances of either party. These changes must be substantial and of a continuing nature. Parties reaching their own agreement for alimony may contract for non-modifiable alimony.

The duration of alimony is based on the length of the marriage. For example, a party may expect approximately 1 year of alimony for every 3 years married. For marriages of over 25 years, an indefinite term of alimony may be appropriate. If the parties include alimony as a part of their own settlement agreement, they are free to set the amount and length of the alimony as they so agree. Previously, alimony was a tax deduction for the party paying the support while the party receiving the support had to claim it as income. Pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, alimony is no longer a taxable event. This change in the tax treatment of alimony became effective January 1, 2019. If your Order for alimony was entered prior to that date, the prior rules will continue to apply.  By April M. Townsend


Some people going through a divorce in New Jersey may attempt to hide assets to prevent a spouse from receiving them in the split.

Any divorce in New Jersey presents a myriad of decisions that must be made: perhaps it has to do with how property may be divided or who will have custody of the children. Though the details of each case may differ, there is one constant: each party should be honest in disclosing any information that would be pertinent to making these decisions.

In fact, New Jersey laws require parties to complete and submit a “family case information statement” within a timeframe set by the court. The statement details family information, employment and income.

When it comes to property division, having a complete picture of each spouse’s assets is critical to ensuring the equitable distribution of those assets. Unfortunately, some people attempt to obscure items in an effort to prevent the loss of them. Here are some signs that this may be occurring:

Large purchases

Cash tends to be king, as it has a concrete value and is easily divided. However, cash is easily spent. When one spouse starts making large purchases – such as with expensive artwork, cars or taking big trips – it may be in an effort to prevent the other spouse from getting that cash. In other words, the cash is being converted into physical assets – and the spouse could even attempt to underreport the actual value of those assets.

Another way to minimize the amount of cash available in a divorce is to overpay a credit card or other debt. Perhaps one spouse decides to start putting extra money into the house payment. Sometimes, people create “fake” debts, such as money owed to a friend, in order to “pay off” the debt so the person essentially holds on to the cash until the divorce is final. This should raise a red flag.

Questionable statements

It is always critical to monitor statements from credit card companies and investments. But what happens if those statements suddenly go missing? Or perhaps have unexpected transactions on them? It could indicate that a spouse is trying to keep his or her other half from accessing assets.

People going through a divorce should also keep an eye out for new statements from banks or credit card companies that may be new. While it is not illegal for someone to open a new account during this time, it is essential that they disclose that information during the divorce proceedings.

Underreported income

Even with the financial disclosure statement is submitted, both parties should thoroughly review it for accuracy. Some people may try to underreport what they make. Though a W-2 or other tax form could easily dispute this, it is not always as easy with people who are paid in cash.

Uncovering assets

Fortunately, with a little work, these hidden assets may be uncovered. Experts suggest hiring a forensic accountant or other specialist who can do a deep dive into a couple’s assets. This process may require providing names, addresses and Social Security numbers of family members.

Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey.

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties to the divorce agree on all of the main issues of the divorce. A couple may agree to property division, alimony and child support. However, the couple will still need to file a number of forms with the court, whether or not it is contested.

In addition, one party in the divorce must have been a Pennsylvania resident for six months prior to the beginning of the divorce. There must also be grounds for the divorce.

Two no-fault grounds exist in Pennsylvania. To obtain a divorce by mutual consent, both parties must agree the marriage is irretrievably broken and wait 90 days after the divorce action is served on the other side. The other no-fault divorce is a separation in which one party does not consent to the divorce and the parties have lived apart for a certain period of time. For divorces in which separation occurred prior to December of 2016, there is a two-year separation divorce, and for those who separated after December of 2016 there is a one-year separation divorce. Less common is a divorce on fault grounds, which include desertion, adultery, endangerment, “cruel and barbarous treatment,” one spouse’s imprisonment for at least two years or for “indignities.”

For a consensual no-fault divorce, the couple must agree to a Property Settlement Agreement if there are assets or issues of alimony. This agreement will divide the marital property according to a mutually negotiated settlement and award or waive alimony. The agreement may also lay out custody and child support, or these can be left to separate agreements or to court. Custody and support in Pennsylvania are not necessary to resolve before a divorce is granted. If there are no assets and no issues of alimony, you will not need an agreement just the divorce.

If the couple cannot agree completely on all issues, the divorce may still be no-fault but the issues will need to be litigated. In a contested divorce a family court judge will decide all issues according to Pennsylvania state law. This includes dividing marital assets equitably (not necessarily equally) and ordering child custody according to the best interests of the child as well as child support. In Pennsylvania these are all heard separately.

An uncontested divorce is often the result of mediation. In mediation, both parties to the divorce use a trained mediator to agree to the basic terms of divorce. Each party is still represented by an attorney, but the issues are all decided out of court. Mediation can provide the divorcing couple with a less acrimonious process, one that is managed privately.

Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, each party should be represented by an attorney. A divorce lawyer can protect your rights and interests in divorce and ensure that your transition to post-divorce life goes as smoothly as possible.

National statistics show that very few alimony recipients are men, even though a rising number of men may be eligible to receive this financial support.

Spouses getting divorced in Langhorne may be awarded alimony and/or spousal support, to address financial inequalities during and after divorce. State family law courts use various factors to determine how much spousal support should be awarded and how long this support should continue. These considerations are gender-neutral, so support is equally available to divorcing men and women. However, statistics suggest that many men do not receive the support that they may be entitled to.

According to Forbes, Census data shows that about 400,000 Americans receive alimony. However, just 3 percent of those people – or about 12,000 individuals – are men. This seems to reflect a gap between the number of men who receive alimony and the number of men who are eligible for it. According to the same data, women act as primary breadwinners in about 40 percent of U.S. households.

Less formal data suggests that the number of men receiving alimony might be increasing. According to Reuters, in 2012, an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey focused on the number of women paying alimony. About 47 percent of the AAML members who responded stated that more women were paying spousal support to their ex-husbands. Still, a large number of men may go without spousal support that they could benefit from.

In Pennsylvania, many men may be eligible to receive support. When awarding support and alimony, family law judges in the state consider various financial factors, including inheritances, current property, income, retirement accounts and future earning potential. Men with limited personal assets, income or earning opportunities may qualify for support.

The court may also assess less easily quantified factors. These include one spouse’s contribution to the other’s education or career; the marital standard of living; and the liabilities each spouse will incur while caring for the couple’s children. When these variables are weighed in, many men might be eligible for at least limited support.

Unfortunately, statistics indicate that many men do not receive the support that they may be entitled to. Forbes notes that there may be various explanations for this pattern, including the following:

Traditional stereotypes about gender roles may make some men reluctant to seek financial assistance.
For similar reasons, divorcing women may be more inclined to fight against paying support or alimony.
Unconscious biases may make judges more likely to award men limited support or decline to award it.
Despite these potential barriers, men should strongly consider exercising their rights to pursue support before divorce proceedings are complete. After a settlement has been finalized, spouses cannot change their minds about choosing to seek alimony.

For this reason, divorcing men may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney with experience in high-income divorce and support/alimony awards. An attorney may be able to offer advice on a spouse’s rights or assist the spouse in seeking needed support.

Both cohabitation and remarriage are grounds for termination of alimony in Pennsylvania. In the case of remarriage, a court-ordered alimony award is terminated automatically upon the receiving spouse’s remarriage. However, if the couple settled outside of court, the divorce settlement must include a statement terminating alimony upon remarriage in order for it to end. Most divorce agreements in PA do include such a provision.

Cohabitation will also terminate court-ordered alimony, but it must be proven. Cohabitation in PA is recognized when a person is living with someone of the opposite sex who is not a close relative, demonstrates evidence of romantic or sexual relationship, and comingles assets or finances, thus approximating marriage.

If you believe your ex-spouse to whom you pay alimony is cohabiting and therefore believe your alimony should be terminated, you need to petition the court for an order to terminate alimony. File a motion in the court that handed down your divorce decree and be prepared to present evidence and witnesses in court to support your claim.

In order to gather evidence, look for pictures on social media or talk to friends or neighbors. You may have to hire a private detective who knows how to legally collect evidence of cohabitation – this may include surveillance, collection of documentation, and getting subpoenas to collect records. Our article Proving your Spouse is Cohabiting goes into more detail on this.

When you suspect your ex is living with someone and doesn’t deserve alimony anymore, it’s important to do a cost-benefit analysis. Consider the court and legal fees, the cost of hiring a private investigator, the time and effort associated with collection and court appearances, and the possible damage to relationships with friends and family. If your monthly alimony payment is not very large or burdensome and is awarded for a limited time, you know exactly how much alimony will cost you and can easily compare. You may find it’s not worth the expense or effort. If, however, your alimony payments are large or have no termination date stipulated by the court, you may determine it is worth the effort.

Child support is not automatically affected by termination of alimony. However, if you feel the cohabiting arrangement is not in the best interests of your children, you may wish to petition the courts for modification of custody.


These are decisions best reviewed with an expert in divorce law. if you suspect your ex-spouse is cohabitating, contact us here at Ulmer Law so we can help you determine the best approach regarding alimony and child custody.