gavel in courtroom

A Pennsylvania judge presiding over a divorce has the discretion to grant spousal support—defined as maintenance payments from one former spouse to another in the time before, during, and after the divorce. This is also called alimony. As one might imagine, the presence of domestic violence in a relationship adds a new wrinkle that the judge must carefully consider. Read on to learn more about how courts approach the joined questions of domestic violence and alimony. Please get in touch with a York County domestic violence attorney if you have been struggling with a situation of domestic violence and are going through a divorce. We’ll do everything we can to help

Will the Judge Consider Domestic Violence When Presiding Over the Divorce?

First of all, a judge will keep in mind all the different kinds of violence that may fall under divorce, as the judge becomes acquainted with specific dynamics of the relationship at hand. Domestic violence can come from a current spouse as much as from a live-in partner and can present in many different forms, such as financial or emotional manipulation and harm.

Before coming to a conclusion on whether alimony should be awarded, the judge will analyze several factors:

  • The earning ability of each former spouse,
  • The assets and sources of income of each former spouse,
  • Which spouse takes care of the children,
  • And how marital misconduct bears on the overall circumstances.

Judges will take if one former spouse misbehaved in a way that significantly damaged the marriage and perhaps even placed the other former spouse in genuine danger. Examples of such misbehavior include having affairs, selling and using drugs, as well as abusing either the former spouse or their children, if any.

The judge is entirely permitted to punish the abusive spouse by granting the victim spouse financial support. A history of domestic violence can lead a judge to award alimony to the abused former spouse as well as refuse it to the abusive former spouse.

Can Alimony Amounts Be Modified Later?

Once the divorce has been finalized, the former spouses are still able to modify the alimony amount, though only in specific cases. If there are significantly changed circumstances, either former spouse can ask the judge to reconsider the alimony decision.

The judge in turn will consider many things, such as whether there are new or ongoing allegations of domestic violence. If one ex-spouse had been awarded alimony but then began to act in an abusive way, the judge may very well decide the newly abusive spouse no longer has a right to alimony.