When spouses separate, the financial situation of the household is usually significantly affected. While child support orders can address the financial needs of the children, the predicament of a non-working spouse or a spouse with a reduced income must also be considered. The Law Office of Heidi C. Noll handles all aspects of family law and works with spouses to establish fair spousal support agreements.
Pennsylvania Support Law
Pennsylvania family law allows for payments to be made to a spouse upon separation, prior to the filing of a divorce complaint. This is calledspousal support. Spousal support in Pennsylvania is usually not available if the two parties continue to live under the same roof. However, if one party can prove that the other is not contributing to the household expenses, spousal support may be collected. In Pennsylvania the spouse who has to pay support has the right to an entitlement defense to the payment of spousal support, if the spouse receiving support has committed one of the fault-based grounds for divorce. There is no defined length of time that spousal support must be paid. Spousal support is paid until the divorce decree is filed.
Alimony Pendente Lite (APL)
In Pennsylvania, after a couple files for divorce the payment is referred to as Alimony Pendente Lite (APL), Latin for alimony pending the litigation. Spousal support will usually be converted into alimony pendente lite (APL) automatically. The purpose for APL in Pennsylvania is to financially permit both spouses to move on with the divorce action by defending against or pursuing claims. The spouse ordered to pay alimony pendente lite cannot raise the entitlement defense at this time. This means that at this time, even if the person seeking payment has left the marriage without just cause or committed adultery, they may be entitled to alimony pendente lite payments.
Finally, when the divorce decree is signed and equitable distribution is finalized, the court may order alimony payments. Pennsylvania law states that alimony may be granted if a spouse cannot meet their “reasonable needs” after looking at their income and the assets they were awarded during equitable distribution. In Pennsylvania there are 17 factors that are considered when deciding if alimony should be awarded and how much:
- The relative earnings and earning capabilities of both parties
- The physical, mental, and emotional condition of the parties
- The sources of income of both parties, including but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance, or other benefits
- The expectancies and inheritances of the parties
- The duration or length of the marriage
- The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party
- 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
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage
- 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
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
- The property brought to the marriage by either party
- The contributions of a spouse as homemaker
- The relative needs of the parties
- The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct from either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party.
- The federal, state, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
- Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for the other party’s reasonable needs
- Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment
Duration of Alimony or Spousal Support
The duration of the alimony will be determined by the courts. In Pennsylvania, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to allow a person a specific amount of time to “rehabilitate” themselves. The settlement could be money for a party to go back to school or get back into the work force. Permanent alimony may be awarded for the rest of a person’s life. Reimbursement alimony may be awarded to a spouse to compensate them for expenses they may have taken responsibility for while the other obtained an education. With the exception of reimbursement alimony, most alimony is terminated when the spouse who receives the alimony moves in with another person in a marriage-like situation, remarries, or dies.