Four Days to Spousal Support?

April 26, 2019

Apparently not all weddings end in marital bliss; some end after only four days!  For example, Academy Award-winning actor, Nicolas Cage, recently wed his girlfriend of one year, Erika Koike, in Las Vegas.  Four days after their date of marriage, Cage filed for an annulment, indicating he was drunk during his nuptials, rendering his marriage voidable.  Concurrently, his blushing bride filed for spousal support, citing “lost career opportunities and damage to her reputation.”  What are her chances for receiving spousal support after a four-day marriage?

Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania, married persons are liable for the support of each other, in accordance with their respective abilities to provide support.  23 Pa.C.S. §4321(1).  In addition to the recognition of a duty to support each other, the court may also require one spouse to pay a designated percentage of the other spouse’s “reasonable and necessary” health care expenses, which may include health insurance premiums, co-pays, medication expenses, and other unreimbursed medical expenses.  23 Pa.C.S. §4324.

All Pennsylvania spousal support cases begin at the Domestic Relations Office level with a complaint in support.  This complaint is served upon the other spouse.  Both parties appear before a support conference officer and participate in a support conference.  During the conference, the support conference officer will ask both parties a series of questions, including but not limited to, their education levels, past employment history, current incomes,  and health situations.  After these questions are answered, the support conference officer will calculate an appropriate support award based upon the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.

When determining an award of spousal support, the support conference officer must consider the duration of the marriage from the date of marriage until the date of final separation.  Pa.R.C.P 1910.16-1(c)(2). The purpose of this provision is to prevent the unfairness, in a short-term marriage, of one spouse having to pay support to the other spouse over a long period of time, many times for a period much longer than the actual marriage, with little or no opportunity for credit at the time of equitable distribution.  (Explanatory Comment – 2010 to Rule 1910.16-1(c)(2).)

If the support conference officer determines the marriage to be a short-term marriage, he or she may deviate from the guideline-determined support amount.  Reasons for a deviation include (1) unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations; (2) other support obligations; (3) other income in the household; (4) ages of children; (5) the relative assets and liabilities of the parties; (6) medical expenses not covered by insurance; (7) standard of living of the parties and their children; and last but not least, (8) in spousal support cases, the duration of the marriage from the date of marriage until the date of final separation.

Therefore, the soon to be ex-Mrs. Nicholas Cage, may have more luck hitting a big payout at the casino, rather than at Domestic Relations!

This article is based upon general principles of Pennsylvania support law.