West Chester, PA Divorce Lawyers


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.

Payments While the Divorce is Pending: Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite

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.

Payments After Divorce is Final: Alimony

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:

  • Earning capacity of both spouses
  • Age and health of the parties
  • Additional sources of income of both parties
  • Expected inheritances
  • Length of the marriage
  • Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning capacity of the other
  • Whether one party has custody over marital children, and shoulders the costs
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Education of the parties (and how long it may take for the lesser earning spouse to acquire sufficient education to find appropriate work
  • Assets and liabilities of both parties
  • Property brought to the marriage by either spouse
  • Homemaker contributions
  • Needs of each party
  • Marital misconduct during the marriage prior to the date of separation
  • Tax implications of the alimony award
  • Whether the party seeking alimony lacks property
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support

Duration of Alimony Payments

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.

Chester County Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Fight Hard For Clients in Alimony Matters

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, PA 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 610-565-3701 or contact us online.