A Guide to the Differences in Spousal Support vs Alimony

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Alimony and spousal support are often fiercely contested issues in a Pennsylvania divorce. Navigating the intricacies of spousal support and alimony can be difficult which is why representation by an experienced Philadelphia divorce lawyer is essential. The family law attorneys at the law office of Schwartz, Fox, and Saltzman, LLC, have over 30 years of experience in litigating alimony and spousal support issues in Court.

In this guide, our law firm aims to clarify the distinctions between spousal support and alimony, particularly within the context of Pennsylvania law.

The Core Difference Between Alimony vs Spousal Support in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the terms “spousal support” and “alimony” are often used interchangeably, referring to financial assistance provided to a dependent spouse after separation or divorce. The core difference between spousal support and alimony is when they are paid during the divorce process. Stated simply, spousal support is paid before a divorce case is filed in court; alimony pendente lite is paid after the divorce case is filed and up to when it is finalized; and alimony is paid after the divorce is finalized.

Alimony & Spousal Support Are Used Interchangeably, but Differ in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law recognizes spouses are legally obligated to provide financial support to one another during a marriage in the form of spousal support (§4321(1) of the Domestic Relations Article). This obligation can continue after a marriage ends via alimony (§3701 of the Domestic Relations Article). Pennsylvania differs from other jurisdictions by allowing the lower-earning spouse to seek alimony pendente lite while a divorce case is being litigated in Court (§3702 of the Domestic Relations Article).

Spousal Support Payments in PA

Temporary spousal support is typically paid after spouses separate prior to a divorce case being filed in court. Under Pennsylvania law, spousal support is defined as “care, maintenance and financial assistance” (§3103 of the Domestic Relations Article). These payments play a pivotal role in helping the lower-earning spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living before a divorce case is filed in court and during a period of separation.

How Spousal Support Payments Are Calculated

Spousal support payments are not determined arbitrarily. Instead, Pennsylvania courts calculate spousal support payments pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-4. Specifically, this formula determines spousal maintenance by subtracting 40% of the financially dependent spouse’s monthly income from 33% of the higher earning spouse’s monthly income.

Alimony Pendente Lite in PA

Alimony pendente lite (APL) is a legal term in Pennsylvania which translates to “alimony pending litigation.” APL refers to temporary financial support granted to the lower-earning spouse throughout the divorce proceedings. APL is not granted automatically in Pennsylvania but instead must be requested after a divorce case is filed in court, and terminates after a divorce decree is finalized.

How Alimony Pendente Lite is Calculated

As with spousal support, APL is not determined arbitrarily. While APL is technically discretionary, Courts in Pennsylvania also calculate APL payments pursuant to Rule 1919.16-4. The aim of APL is to ensure the dependent spouse has the means to cover essential living and legal expenses during the divorce process. One does not pay both Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite; it is either one or the other.

Summary of Spousal Support vs Alimony in Pennsylvania

Spousal support and alimony are often misunderstood and hotly contested issues during a Pennsylvania divorce. Due to both the short term and long term consequences of spousal support and alimony payments, experienced legal counsel is essential during the divorce process. To learn more about the services the divorce lawyers at Schwartz, Fox, and Saltzman, LLC, can provide, contact us today to obtain a free consultation.

Get a Call Back From a Child Custody & Divorce Lawyer in Philadelphia

Call Now
Email Us