In Pennsylvania, a spouse may be entitled to spousal support, alimony or alimony pendent lite. Each of these categories has their own unique characteristics.
CATEGORIES OF SUPPORT
Alimony. A spouse is entitled to alimony only after a divorce decree has been entered. In determining alimony, Section 3701 of the PA Divorce Code establishes enumerated factors that the Court must consider when awarding alimony to an ex-spouse.
Alimony Pendente Lite. In some cases, the court may allow a spouse to receive reasonable alimony pendente lite (commonly referred to as “APL”). APL can only be received when a divorce action is pending. To determine the amount of APL, the court will use a specific formula established by law. The court will subtract the receiving party’s monthly net income from the paying party’s monthly net income. The receiving party is then entitled to 40% of the difference. When children are involved, the formula requires that the court must first establish an amount of child support payable to the receiving party. That amount is then subtracted from the difference of the monthly net incomes and then the receiving party is entitled to 30% of remaining difference.
Spousal Support. Spousal support is very similar to APL in that the amount of APL or Spousal Support is determined by the same calculation. There is one major difference. A party may be entitled to spousal support when the parties are separated, but no divorce action is pending, unlike APL which can only be claimed when a divorce action is pending. However, the paying spouse may have an entitlement defense.
WHAT ARE ENTITLEMENT DEFENSES?
In Pennsylvania, married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support. However, there is an exception when it comes to spousal support when the receiving spouse conducts himself or herself in a manner that would constitute grounds for a fault-based divorce. A fault-based divorce may be granted to an innocent or injured spouse when the other spouse has committed an act of willfulor malicious desertion, adultery, or other indignity as to render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome. Therefore, if a spouse commits adultery and then seeks spousal support, the other spouse will claim the entitlement defense.
CAN THE RECEIVING SPOUSE GET APL AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
No. A party can only make a claim for one or the other. Since the calculations are the same, a party to a divorce action will make a claim for APL since the paying spouse does not have any entitlement defenses available to him or her.
WHAT IF MY NEEDS ARE GREATER THAN SPOUSAL SUPPPORT FORUMULA?
The spousal support formula presumes that the amount arrived at after the calculation is reasonable under the circumstances. However, a spouse can request more support if the spouse can show that a deviation from the formula is warranted. For example, if a spouse can prove that he or she has unusual needs or extraordinary expenses (e.g. healthcare expenses), then that spouse may be entitled to higher amount.
CAN SPOUSAL SUPPORT BE CHANGED?
Yes. The amount can be changed if the circumstances of the parties change. Also, spousal support will automatically end when the marriage is terminated.
Alimony, APL and support are matters that should be handled by a skilled divorce lawyer. Contact the divorce lawyers at The Martin Law Firm at 215-687-4053 to discuss your case.