In order to properly calculate a Pennsylvania spousal support order, or advise a client on whether such an order is even appropriate, requires the knowledge of an experienced Pennsylvania spousal support attorney. Pennsylvania law provides for three different types of support that may be awarded to a financially dependent spouse:
- Spousal support. Support paid to a financially dependent spouse after the spouses have separated and before a Pennsylvania divorce complaint is filed with the Pennsylvania family courts. Whether or not you were at fault for the divorce may impact your ability to receive spousal support. The person paying support has a right to raise an entitlement defense if you were at fault in causing the break-up of the marriage.
- Alimony pendente lite (also called APL). This is a form of support paid to a financially dependent spouse after the divorce complaint has been filed with the family courts. This type of support may be payable until the Divorce Decree is entered and all financial issues involving equitable distribution are resolved by the parties or through court action. The purpose of APL is to permit both spouses to be able to support themselves and have the ability to each hire an attorney of their choosing while the divorce action is pending. As such, the paying spouse cannot raise the entitlement defenses available in spousal support actions. In other words, even if the spouse seeking APL has committed a fault-based ground for divorce such as adultery or has abandoned the marriage without a just cause, that spouse may be entitled to APL payments.
- Alimony. This is support paid to a financially dependent spouse after the Pennsylvania Divorce Decree is finalized and all financial issues involving equitable distribution have been resolved through court action or agreement. After taking into consideration the parties' income and the assets each was awarded as part of the Pennsylvania equitable distribution order, the court will award alimony only to a spouse that cannot meet their reasonable financial needs when the other spouse has the ability to meet their own reasonable needs and assist the financially dependent spouse. Some situations in which alimony is awarded include those situations when the spouses have a great disparity in income, when the parties had a long-term marriage, when one spouse suffers from a mental or physical disability, or when one spouse primarily cares for minor children who are not yet of school age. Spouses who have committed an act that would be considered a fault-based ground for divorce, may be denied alimony.