When there is an inequality of income in a marriage, the spouse with the lower income is often entitled to alimony payments while the divorce is pending. Sometimes, these support payments are court ordered to continue even after the divorce has been finalized. Often referred to as “alimony,” these payments are governed by Section 3701 of the Divorce Code. There are three types of spousal support orders a Pennsylvania court can grant: spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony.
Spousal support payments are paid after a couple separates, but before the divorce is finalized. Spousal support may be ordered before the divorce is even filed. Alimony pendente lite means “while the action is pending.” Sometimes called “APL,” these payments are made pursuant to a temporary court order for support after the divorce action is filed, but before there is a final divorce decree. Courts are legally required to use statutorily specified guidelines to calculate the amount of the order, as set forth in the Pennsylvania Code. The guidelines take into account the needs of the spouse seeking support, and the income and earning capacity of both spouses. The duration of the support payment award depends on the length of the marriage.
Unlike spousal support and APL, alimony is ordered by a judge at the time the divorce decree is entered, or sometimes afterward. Judges have a lot of discretion in determining the amount of alimony one spouse may have to pay to another—judges may allow alimony, so long as the order is reasonable. The Pennsylvania Divorce Code sets forth 17 factors that the judge must look to in determining an alimony award, including:
Pennsylvania courts can order that alimony payments continue for a reasonable period of time, depending on the circumstances. The order can be changed or modified if either party’s circumstances change. However, certain conditions can result in an automatic termination of a party’s right to receive alimony. For example, remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony; the receiving spouse is cohabiting; or death, unless the order says otherwise.
The 17 factors relevant in determining an alimony award are often some of the most fiercely contested topics in a divorce. The dedicated West Chester divorce lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. have an in-depth knowledge of what courts are looking for. We know how stressful divorces are. To schedule a consultation today, call us at 610-565-3700 or contact us online.