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Can you reduce or end alimony payments when you retire?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Family Law

Increasingly, couples are divorcing later in life. Some choose to go their separate ways when they’re well into their senior years. Couples who divorce in their 50s or 60s typically have different concerns as they go through the process than those in their 20s and 30s do. One of these concerns may involve how their eventual retirement will affect their spousal support (alimony) obligations.

Here in Pennsylvania, one spouse may be ordered to pay “reasonable” alimony to the other. The amount and length of the alimony payments depend on a number of factors, including both parties’ income and assets as well as their ages and health. The recipient spouse’s earning potential will also be considered – especially if they were out of the workplace for portions of their marriage caring for any children.

Spouses ordered to pay alimony who are nearing retirement age are often concerned about what their alimony obligations mean for their ability to retire. Most people no longer are automatically expected to retire at 65, as they were in the past. Some people would prefer to keep working for as long as they’re able to. Others wait until their Social Security “full retirement age,” which for most people is now 67. Still others – particularly in highly stressful or physically demanding jobs – decide to retire (at least from full-time work) a few years earlier.

What do the courts consider?

The good news is that courts will consider allowing people to reduce or end their support payments when they retire if it’s reasonable to do so. As when determining the initial amount of alimony, they’ll look at things like the payor’s post-retirement income (from Social Security and other benefits, IRA distributions, pensions and other sources). They’ll also consider the recipient’s income from all sources and their earning potential if they’re not yet at retirement age. Finally, they consider whether a person is retiring because they’ve reached an appropriate age or whether they’re just trying to avoid making payments.

Spousal support certainly is not intended to keep divorced people working forever. They have the right to retire when it’s time. However, if a retiring party is still in a much better place financially than their ex, they may still have some financial obligation to them. The best thing to do, regardless of which side of the equation you’re on, is to make sure you have experienced legal guidance if you have questions about how your spousal support arrangements may be impacted by retirement concerns.