Are you staying in an unhappy marriage for financial reasons? Are you worried that you won’t be able to make ends meet, much less pay for your divorce attorney? Are you scared you’ll lose your children because you don’t make enough to fight your spouse?
Don’t let financial dependence stop you from living the life you deserve. You have a choice. Pennsylvania law offers a variety of options to provide financial support before, during and after a Pennsylvania divorce.
Alimony, Spousal Support or Alimony Pendente Lite (APL)?
Alimony, spousal support and alimony pendente lite are three terms that are used interchangeably, but are actually very different concepts under Pennsylvania law. The payment that is right for you will depend on whether you have filed for divorce and whether your divorce has been granted.
Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are payments made during the separation period before the divorce becomes final. These payments may also be called “maintenance”. Alimony refers to periodic post-divorce payments paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce becomes final.
Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite
Spousal support and alimony pendente are intended to allow a lower income spouse to afford living expenses and legal representation during separation. Although both spousal support and alimony pendente lite refer to regular payments made before a divorce is final, there are significant differences.
Spousal support is requested by the lower income spouse before the divorce is initiated. This means you can request spousal support if you’ve left an abusive situation or if your spouse has moved out. However, your spousal support claim can be denied if you have provided grounds for divorce. This denial is called an “entitlement defense” and means any spouse who is abusive or has committed adultery can be denied spousal support benefits because they are not “entitled” to support.
Alimony pendente lite is awarded only after a divorce has been initiated. There is no “entitlement defense” for alimony pendente lite. You can request alimony pendente lite even if you’ve provided grounds for the divorce.
Calculating Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite
Spousal support and alimony pendente lite are calculated according to a set formula. If you have no children, you may receive 40 percent of the difference between your income and your spouse’s higher income. If you have dependent children, you must subtract child support from the difference. You will receive 30 percent of the difference between your income and your spouse’s income minus child support. In most cases, your spousal support or alimony pendente lite will be combined into one payment. You are responsible for paying taxes on that income.
Alimony in Pennsylvania
Once all financial issues are resolved and your divorce becomes final, you will become eligible for alimony. The amount of alimony you are entitled to will become part of your divorce decree.
There are three types of alimony in Pennsylvania:
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony provides temporary financial support for a fixed period of time while a spouse completes school, training or other “rehabilitation” that will allow him or her to become self-supporting.
- Permanent Alimony: Permanent alimony provides payments t for the rest of the former spouse’s lifetime or until the dependent spouse remarries. Permanent alimony is rarely awarded in Pennsylvania.
- Reimbursement Alimony: You supported your spouse through medical school. Now that he’s earning good money, he says that he’s met someone else. Reimbursement alimony is a form of alimony awarded to one spouse as payment for expenses paid on behalf of the other spouse. This includes payment of education, medical bills or marital debt.
Alimony is not automatic. Pennsylvania courts will only award alimony if you need financial support to meet your reasonable financial needs and your spouse is financially capable of providing that support. In general, alimony is reserved for these situations:
- There is a large difference between your income and your spouse’s income
- You have physical or mental disability which impacts your ability to earn money
- You do not work because you are the primary caregiver to young children
- You have been married for a long time
The court also considers a number of factors when deciding alimony, however you may be denied alimony if you are the spouse that provided grounds for the divorce.
Calculating Pennsylvania Alimony
There is no fixed formula for Pennsylvania alimony. Instead, the Pennsylvania Legislature has creates a list of 17 criteria that the courts must consider when awarding alimony. These criteria include your income and assets, your financial needs, and your spouse’s income and assets and financial needs. Every case is different.
Don’t Let Your Finances Trap You in an Unhappy Marriage
Are you ready to take the first step to a better tomorrow? Contact Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC. Our family law attorneys will talk to you about your financial options and help you make the decisions that will protect you now and in the future. Call 215-523-6900 to make an initial appointment.