Seeking a divorce does not mean you have to impoverish yourself to escape an unhappy marriage. Pennsylvania law provides lower-earning spouses several tools to protect themselves financially before, during, and after a divorce. One of these tools is establishing spousal support.
The Philadelphia divorce attorneys at Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman have been litigating spousal support and alimony matters for over 40 years.
This article goes over what spousal support is in Pennsylvania and how it is calculated.
What is Spousal Support in Pennsylvania?
Spousal support is a form of financial assistance for the financially dependent spouse. Specifically, the paying spouse pays a portion of their income to the receiving spouse. Unlike alimony, spousal support is paid after the parties separate but before the divorce action is completed.
How Spousal Support is Calculated in PA
Spousal support is calculated according to a formula specified in Rule 1910.16-4 of the Pennsylvania code. Under this formula, spousal support is determined by subtracting 40% of the lower-earning spouse’s monthly after-tax net income from 33% of the higher-earning spouse’s monthly after-tax net income. For example, if husband earns $10,000.00 per month and wife earns $6,000 per month, husband owes wife $900 per month (($10,000 x. .33 =$3,300) – ($6,000 x .40 = $2,400), i.e., $3,300 – $2,400 = $900).
Factors Affecting Spousal Support Calculations
If the spouses have children, the higher-earning spouse’s obligation is reduced to 30%. This is because the higher-earning spouse is likely paying child support. Additionally, if the spouses own a home, the mortgage payment may result in a departure from the formula.
Is Spousal Support Mandatory?
The calculation of spousal support and APL is simply a numerical calculation. The length of spousal support and APL can be impacted if the marriage is a short marriage or if a party repeatedly does not cooperate in the Discovery process.
How Long Can You Collect Spousal Support in PA?
Theoretically, spousal support can last for an indefinite period. After a divorce is formally initiated, you can seek alimony pendente lite. However, spousal support ends if you and your spouse reconcile, your spouse’s death, or the divorce case is filed with the court. In order for an order of spousal support to convert to APL, a party has to make that request to the Court.
Types of Alimony
Aside from spousal support, two other types of alimony payments are available under Pennsylvania law. Specifically, alimony pendente lite and post-divorce alimony.
Spousal support is support paid to a spouse after the parties separate but before one of the parties files a Divorce Complaint. Once the Divorce Complaint is filed, the support payment is called alimony pendente lite rather than spousal support. The calculation of alimony pendente lite (“APL”) is identical to the calculation made in determining spousal support.
Alimony pendente lite (APL) can be sought by the spouse seeking alimony after a divorce is filed. Under section § 3702(a) of the divorce code, APL is meant to provide temporary financial support to the lower-earning spouse during the formal divorce process. Alimony pendente lite terminates following the entry and issuance of a divorce decree.
Under § 3701, the financially dependent spouse can seek a post-divorce alimony award. Specifically, courts determine the necessity, type, amount, and duration of alimony payments based on the 17 factors specified in § 3701(b) to (c). Courts only award post-divorce alimony if necessary, i.e., the recipient spouse cannot financially support themselves. Alimony is referred to as a “secondary remedy” by the court, in that it is not automatic in every divorce.
A post-divorce alimony award can only be modified if the party seeking the modification demonstrates a substantial change in circumstances. Alimony in Pennsylvania can also be terminated if the recipient remarries. Additionally, the death of the payor spouse will end an alimony award.
Summary of Spousal Support in PA
The laws regarding spousal support are extensive and complex. Stated simply, you may be able to obtain spousal support before your divorce and alimony during and after your divorce. To learn more, contact Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman to talk with one of our family law attorneys about spousal support.