My ex just won the Lottery. Can I stop paying alimony now?


My ex just won the Lottery. Can I stop paying alimony now?

Alimony” is a series of monthly maintenance payments made from one former spouse to another for a fixed period of time following entry of a divorce decree. In Pennsylvania, alimony is often characterized as a “secondary” form of relief, available to a dependent spouse where an equitable distribution of the marital assets cannot otherwise be accomplished. For instance, if parties to a divorce have been married for 30 years, and during the marriage one spouse focused their efforts on raising the children while the other advanced their career, the “dependent” spouse may be entitled to alimony for a number of months or years following the divorce in order to rehabilitate their own career and earning capacity.

Once awarded by the court, alimony is only modifiable where the paying spouse can show a change in circumstances that are of a significant and continuing nature. This “change in circumstances” may be an illness, involuntary loss of income, or other significant change resulting in the obligor’s inability to pay.

But what about lottery winnings? This question was raised recently by a New Jersey woman who was ordered to pay alimony to her former husband for five years following their divorce. Five months later, husband won $27.3 million on a Mega Millions lottery ticket. In this instance the “change in circumstances” has nothing to do with Wife’s ability to meet her obligation, but rather Husband’s need for monthly maintenance payments in light of his $27.3M windfall. Under Pennsylvania law, Husband’s jackpot would be compelling case for Wife to terminate her obligation. Because alimony in PA is based in large part on the needs of the recipient spouse, courts would certainly entertain a petition to modify where the paying spouse can establish a significant change in circumstances whereby the recipient spouse no longer has those same needs. A more common example would be where a recipient spouse marries or cohabitates with a significant other.

To learn more about how alimony is applied in Pennsylvania, as well as the grounds by which a party may modify or terminate their alimony obligation, call and speak with one of our experienced Family Law attorneys.

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About the author

About Christopher Casserly

Chris joined the firm in 2013 after graduating from Villanova University School of Law. While at Villanova Chris focused on Family Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution. In addition, he participated in the Villanova Law Civil Justice Clinic where he advocated for indigent clients facing custody issues. Prior to attending law school, Chris received his B.A. from Providence College where he studied English and French. Chris is a Supervising Attorney and Team Leader at LaMonaca Law. Chris was named a “Top Lawyer” in Family Law by Main Line Today in 2015 and 2017, as well as a Best Lawyer in the area of Adoption in the Delaware County Daily Times. He is a member of the American Bar Association Family Law Section, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Delaware County Bar Association, where he serves as chair of the Family Law Section’s Custody Committee. When he’s not advocating for his clients, Chris enjoys cooking, all things Seinfeld-related, and being at the shore with his family and their dog, Molly.