Types of Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
There are several types of financial support during separation or divorce.
If you or your spouse have separated or filed for divorce, your household financial situation is most likely considerably affected. While the financial needs of the children can be addressed through a child support order, you probably have questions regarding support of the financially dependent spouse.
Pennsylvania law provides for three different forms of support that may be awarded to the financially dependent spouse: spousal support, alimony pendente lite and alimony. Whether paying or receiving, it is important to know the differences.
How Can I Get Spousal Support? Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support?
The purpose of an order of spousal support is to assure a reasonable living allowance to the party requiring support. Generally, the higher-earning spouse has the obligation to provide financial assistance for the lesser-earning spouse.
In Pennsylvania, support is based upon the net monthly incomes of the parties. To calculate a party’s net monthly income, the following items are deducted from his or her gross income: federal, state and local taxes, FICA (Social Security and Medicare) or self-employment taxes, non-voluntary retirement contributions, union dues, alimony paid to the recipient spouse.
Where there are no minor children, spousal support is calculated as 40% of the difference between the payor spouse’s net income and the recipient spouse’s net income. Alternatively, where there are minor children, spousal support is calculated as 30% of the difference between the payor spouse’s net income and the recipient spouse’s net income minus the child support obligation as determined by the support guidelines.
Spousal support, unlike child support, is deductible from the payor spouse’s taxable income and includable to the recipient spouse’s taxable income. Spousal support terminates upon divorce.
What is Alimony Pendente Lite (“APL”)?
The purpose of an order of Alimony Pendente Lite (“APL”) is to provide a dependent spouse with financial resources to maintain or defend the divorce action.
APL is calculated similarly to spousal support; however, there are two noteworthy differences between spousal support and APL. First, APL may only be awarded after a divorce complaint has been filed raising a claim for APL. Spousal support may be awarded prior to initiating the divorce action so long as the parties are separated. Second, a claim for APL cannot be defeated by an “entitlement” defense, whereas, spousal support may not be awarded if it can be established that the recipient spouse committed fault grounds for divorce.
How Can I Get Alimony? Will I Have to Pay Alimony?
In Pennsylvania, alimony may be awarded to a dependent spouse after a divorce decree has been entered if deemed necessary. However, unlike spousal support and APL, alimony is much more dependent on the discretion of the Court unless the parties are able to reach an agreement.
The Court must consider 17 factors in determining whether to award alimony. How long alimony will last is dependent on the specific circumstances of the case and the judge deciding. In Pennsylvania, alimony may be awarded for an indefinite period although that is rare. Alimony awards can be modifiable and will generally terminate upon the cohabitation, remarriage or death of the receiving spouse.
If you are separated or have filed for divorce in Hershey, Harrisburg, Mechanicsburg or Central Pennsylvania, contact us to determine whether you should have to pay or should receive spousal support, APL or alimony by calling (717) 883-5671 or emailing us at FamilyLaw@JSDC.com.