Relationships between couples are complex and highly emotional, especially during and after the divorce process. While no one can support acts of violence between partners, it is not uncommon for spouses to make accusations of domestic violence during an especially heated fight. When actions get exaggerated, or one partner loses control, the authorities may show up to make arrests first and ask questions later.
If you are accused of or convicted of domestic violence charges, it can have a profound impact on many areas of your life. One of the most devastating for divorcing people is in the area of alimony or spousal support.
Alimony and Domestic Violence
In Pennsylvania, a judge in a divorce case has the option to award spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance payments, to one spouse prior to, during, and/or after a divorce case. When deciding whether to award alimony, the judge will consider multiple factors, including each party's earning ability and potential, each party's assets and sources of income, which party cares for the couple's children, the length of the marriage, and each party's contributions to the marriage.
One of the most important factors that determines whether or not a spouse will be granted alimony is the marital misconduct of either party. When one spouse misbehaves in a way that significantly damages the marriage, either by committing affairs, by abusing drugs or alcohol, or by abusing their partner or children, the judge can punish the offending spouse for that misbehavior by awarding alimony to the innocent spouse.
As a result, a history of domestic violence and abuse or a new domestic violence allegation during a pending divorce can result in a judge awarding spousal support to the abused spouse or denying spousal support to the abusive spouse.
Changes to Spousal Support Payments After Domestic Violence Accusations
After a divorce is finalized, the parties to the divorce can still modify their alimony or spousal maintenance payments under certain circumstances. See 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. 3701. Either party can petition the judge to ask that spousal support payments be reevaluated in light of significantly changed circumstances.
Like when the issue of spousal support was first decided in the divorce, a judge reexamining a divorced couple's alimony arrangement must weigh and consider many factors. One of these will be any new or continuing allegations of domestic violence or abuse. If the party paying spousal support can show that the person who is receiving spousal support is abusing them, the judge will likely consider that when determining if spousal maintenance payments are still necessary. In some cases, a judge may determine that the abusive partner receiving alimony payments is no longer entitled to spousal support.
Get Help After a Domestic Violence Arrest
The consequences of being accused of domestic violence can be severe, even before a conviction. If you have been accused of abuse, it is important to get help protecting your reputation before it is too late. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento understands how circumstances can spin out of control and will help you contain the damage after an arrest. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888.535.3686 and retain the experienced help you need.