There are a number of theories floating around in Pennsylvania as to how long one must be married before alimony may be successfully demanded in a divorce. Some courts have been known to apply such theories, one being that a qualifying spouse will get one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. Such theories, however, can never be hard and fast rules in every divorce case. Imagine a spouse, for example, who graduates from medical school, immediately studies for and receives certification as an anesthesiologist and marries before practicing medicine or the specialty of anesthesiology for even one day. At the other spouse’s behest, that spouse agrees to immediately have a child and stay home and be a spouse and mother. The other spouse is an architect with a very successful practice. Eighteen months or so and one child later, the architect decides he has had enough of married life and files a divorce action. The doctor spouse now has a year and a half hole in her resume and a child for whom to care; moreover, the science of anesthesiology has advanced during that time and she now has less knowledge to go along with no experience. Would it be fair for her not to receive alimony?
Yes, that is an extreme example, but far from unheard of and coming up with other less dramatic scenarios is fairly easy to do. This demonstrates that the brevity of a marriage alone may not rule out alimony. Remember that our alimony law is for the purpose of rehabilitating a spouse to enable that spouse to become self-sufficient in our society. The other side of the length-of-marriage coin is the situation of a very long marriage wherein one spouse, with the agreement of both, has not worked during, say, thirty-five years of marriage. Alimony in such a case is likely to be long and could even be permanent.