When parties separate, the lower income spouse (male or female) may file for support.  Usually, a spouse may not file for support if the parties are still residing in the same residence, but there are exceptions to this rule.

Pennsylvania law provides for three types of spousal support.  The term used to describe that support is dependent upon where the parties are in the divorce process:

Spousal Support

This is support provided to the lower income spouse upon separation, and before a complaint in divorce has been filed.  While the purpose of this support award is to meet the reasonable needs of the lower income spouse, it is not meant to be a punishment to the paying spouse.  In calculating a spousal support obligation, Pennsylvania has established statewide guidelines as to how support will be calculated, what will be considered in the calculation, what the spouse’s reasonable needs and expenses are, and ultimately, what the support obligation will be.  It should be noted that the paying spouse may raise a defense to this form of support, known as lack of entitlement, in situations where the spouse requesting support has engaged in conduct, usually adultery, which caused the separation of the parties.

APL (Alimony Pendente Lite)

Alimony Pendente Lite is support provided to the lower income spouse upon separation, and when a complaint for divorce has been filed.  This form of support, which means alimony pending litigation, will continue throughout the divorce action, and in most cases, will terminate upon the issuance of a decree in divorce.  However, if a divorce decree is issued before the persons involved have equitably divided their assets and debts, it may continue until the equitable distribution case has been resolved or litigated.  The purpose is to permit the dependent spouse the opportunity to litigate the divorce action.  There is no entitlement defense available for this type of support, and as such, cohabitation of the dependent spouse with another person does not terminate APL. APL is calculated using the same guidelines as spousal support.

Alimony

This is support provided to the spouse after a decree in divorce has been issued.  Alimony is often negotiated with the equitable distribution portion of a divorce case, and is granted when the court deems it reasonable and necessary. If the court orders alimony, it will also outline both the duration in which the alimony should be paid, as well as the amount.  In some circumstances, a court may award permanent alimony.  In making a  determination of whether or not alimony is necessary, the court applies the following factors:

  1. The relevant earning capacity of the parties
  2. The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties
  3. The sources of income of both parties, including but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance and other benefits
  4. The expectancies and inheritances of the parties
  5. The duration of the marriage
  6. The contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party
  7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child
  8. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage
  9. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment
  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
  11. The property brought to the marriage by either party
  12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
  13. The relative needs of the parties
  14. The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage; however, the marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation may not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court must consider the abuse of one party by the other party;
  15. The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  16. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under the statutes relating to equitable distribution, to provide for the party’s reasonable needs
  17. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment

Alimony may terminate earlier than the prescribed duration if the parties agreed that it shall terminate upon cohabitation or remarriage of the party receiving alimony.

No matter where you are in the divorce process, attorneys of the Burns White Family Law Group can prepare projected calculations in advance of a support conference to provide you with the critical information needed to make informed decisions about your family’s financial future.