Spousal Support; Alimony Pendente Lite; and Alimony:

Alimony, spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL), are three similar but separate concepts in Pennsylvania Support Practice.  Under Pa law, the term alimony refers to post-divorce payments.  In Pennsylvania, spousal support and APL are interchangeable terms.  They refer to payments made during the separation periods between spouses prior to the conclusion or the finalization of a divorce action.  

Differences between spousal support and APL:  There are two significant differences between spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL).  First, APL may be awarded only after a divorce complaint has been started.  Spousal support, on he other hand, can be awarded to an estranged spouse before the commencement of the divorce action, but only if the parties are living separate and apart.  Second, there is no defense to a claim for APL, while spousal support claim be defended by the “entitlement” defense.  An entitlement defense may exist if the plaintiff has committed fault grounds for divorce, such as infidelity, cruel and barbarous treatment, or abandonment.  Therefore, a spouse who committed adultery or abandoned the defendant spouse may not be entitled to receive spousal support.  Keep in mind that if that guilty spouse files a divorce action and includes a claim for APL, he or she will obtain support despite fault allegations.

Calculating spousal support/APL:  Spousal support and APL are calculated in the same identical way:  Multiply the difference between the payor’s net monthly income and the payee’s net monthly income by 40%.  This 40% calculation only applies if there are no children.  If there are minor children, then the income differential is reduced by the amount of child support, and the result is then multiplied by 30%.  Usually, the spousal support and APL award is combined with the child support award into an unallocated support order, which is fully taxable to the payee and deductible to the payor.

Guidelines do not apply to Alimony:  Unlike spousal support and APL, there are no guidelines to determine the amount of alimony under Pennsylvania law. Instead, the legislature has a list of 17 subjective criteria that the courts must consider at 23 Pa.C.S. 3701(b).  Post-divorce alimony is viewed as a secondary remedy to be awarded only when economic justice could not have been accomplished by dividing the parties marital property.  Alimony is usually awarded for rehabilitation of a dependent spouse’s earning capacity, such as a college degree or re-entry into the workforce.  Every case is different based upon the parties circumstances, thus you should be represented by an experienced attorney to guide you through litigation concerning support.  Call the Marinaro Law Firm for experienced, aggressive and competent representation regarding all support matters.