Spousal Support in Pennsylvania: Understanding the Difference Between Alimony and Alimony Pendente Lite

Appellate Unit

Spousal Support in Pennsylvania: Understanding the Difference Between Alimony and Alimony Pendente Lite

In Pennsylvania, there are three main types of spousal support that a court may order, namely “alimony,” “alimony pendente lite,” and “spousal support.”  While all of these forms of spousal support are similar, they differ in their purposes, whether they are entitlements or discretionary, and when the dependent spouse is eligible to receive support.  In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between these three types of support to help you have a clearer understanding of how they work.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is the legal obligation of one spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse post-divorce. Payments are generally made on a monthly basis and may continue until the receiving spouse cohabitates with a new romantic partner, dies, or for a predetermined term. Alimony is not mandatory in Pennsylvania, and there are no clear-cut guidelines for determining the amount of alimony awarded. Instead, the courts use a factor-based approach, taking into account the earning capacity, age, health of the parties, duration of the marriage, and their marital lifestyle, among other factors.

What is Alimony Pendente Lite?

Alimony pendente lite (APL) mean alimony “pending the litigation.”  It is designed to be temporary support provided to a spouse during the divorce proceedings.  APL is intended to help the put the lower-earning spouse on equal footing with the higher-earning spouse until the divorce is finalized by the entry of a divorce decree. It enables the recipient spouse to meet their essential living expenses and obtain legal representation during the divorce process.  There are no entitlement defenses to APL, although a court may consider the length of the marriage relative to the length of time APL is received.

The Differences between Alimony and Alimony Pendente Lite

The primary differences between alimony and APL is that the former is awarded post-divorce, while the latter is awarded while the divorce proceedings are still ongoing. APL is intended to help a spouse pay legal fees, rent, and other essential living expenses until the divorce is finalized. In contrast, alimony is awarded after the divorce is finalized and is intended to help a spouse become financially independent.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is a third type of support that is available to the receiving spouse after the parties separate but before a divorce is filed.  The purpose of spousal support is to assure the dependent spouse a reasonable living allowance.  However, unlike APL, there are entitlement defenses to paying spousal support.

How Can an Attorney Help?

If you are going through a divorce in Pennsylvania, it is essential to seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney can help you understand the applicable laws and determine the appropriate spousal support amount that you may be entitled to, or may be obligated to pay.

In summary, alimony, spousal support, and APL are similar but differ in their purposes, whether they are entitlements or discretionary, and when the dependent spouse is eligible to receive support.  It is essential to understand these differences to prepare for the various outcomes that may arise during your divorce proceedings. A divorce attorney can help protect your interests and ensure that you receive or pay the appropriate spousal support payment. If you are going through a divorce in Pennsylvania and need help understanding alimony, spousal support, and APL, contact one of the experienced family law attorneys at LaMonaca Law today for assistance.

 

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About the author

About Andrew Francos

Andrew graduated from Franklin and Marshall College, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics. During his time there, Andrew was a two-time letterman for Franklin and Marshall’s Division I wrestling program. After college, Andrew attended Widener University Commonwealth Law School, where he was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society. After graduating from Widener in May 2022, Andrew passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam and accepted his current position at LaMonaca Law. Andrew brings with him a strong commitment to family values and looks forward to serving clients with the same level of zeal as he would expect his family to receive.