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Can you retire if you’re paying spousal support?

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Family Law |

One of the bright spots in divorce is being able to look forward to a future that doesn’t involve an unhappy marriage. Part of the future will likely involve retirement – at least from full-time work and a regular paycheck. 

Whether that retirement is still years away or coming up in the fairly near future, if you’re ordered to pay alimony (spousal support) to your ex, will you be able to retire as long as you have that obligation? 

Pennsylvania law allows spouses who qualify to receive “reasonable” alimony. The duration and amount are determined based on things like both spouses’ assets, income and earning potential as well as their age and health. Alimony payments may be modified or ended entirely as these things change for one or both people over the years.

Seeking a modification to your support order

Typically, if the paying spouse reaches a reasonable retirement age for their job and wants (or maybe needs) to retire or at least cut back on the time they spend working, they can seek a support modification to accommodate their reduced income.

Certainly, each circumstance is unique. It’s important to know before you make retirement plans to understand what a judge will look at if you ask to reduce or end your support payments as you retire. Likely, they’ll ask questions including the following:

  • Whether retirement is necessary (maybe because you have a physically strenuous occupation) or maybe even mandatory (as it is for commercial pilots)
  • What your post-retirement income be (from Social Security and other benefits, investment income, part-time work, rental income and retirement account distributions, for example)
  • What your ex’s other sources of income are
  • Whether your ex has made reasonable efforts to become self supporting, if they’re able to

It’s never too early to start thinking about these things, even if you haven’t yet begun the divorce process. If your divorce is in the past, but your alimony payments aren’t, as you near full or semi-retirement, it’s wise to get legal guidance on how to seek the necessary modifications to your support order and possibly other agreements.