WYOMISSING-READING-BERKS COUNTY SPOUSAL SUPPORT AND ALIMONY PENDENTE LITE (“APL”) ATTORNEY
Attorney Jana R. Barnett regularly represents clients seeking or fighting claims for spousal support and alimony pendente lite during the period between separation and divorce.
Overview of Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite In Pennsylvania
Financially dependent spouses may be able to receive either spousal support or alimony pendente lite (“APL”). Although the amounts paid will be the same, there are important differences between these two types of support. The correct calculation of both spousal support and APL depends on an accurate understanding of net monthly income, as well as reasons why the presumptive minimum amount of support might not be appropriate in a given case. In addition, spousal support and APL may be modified from time to time.
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code makes married people liable for supporting each other. However, it is not necessary for a divorce action to be filed in order for a dependent spouse to receive spousal support. The dependent spouse can file a Complaint for Support with the Domestic Relations Section in Berks County (or other Pennsylvania counties) regardless of whether either spouse has filed for divorce, because the purpose of spousal support is to provide a reasonable living allowance to the spouse requiring support.
In contrast, APL is intended to level the financial playing field between financially dependent and independent spouses during the divorce litigation. Therefore, a divorce action must be filed before the financially dependent spouse can seek APL. It does not matter which party filed the divorce action, so long as the person seeking APL has filed a claim for APL with the divorce. The financially dependent spouse is expected to pursue the divorce in a timely manner.
In short, spousal support is a duty until the time of divorce, and APL is an equitable remedy (one based on the need for fairness) while the divorce is being litigated.
For purposes of a divorce, parties can be separated and get divorced even if they live in the same house. For purposes of support, however, if the husband and wife live in the same house, and the financially independent spouse pays the necessary expenses of the financially dependent spouse, a Court should not order that spousal support should be paid. APL may be awarded even if both parties live in the same house, however.
One factor that Courts will consider when
determining whether to award spousal support
is whether either or both of the parties
engaged in marital misconduct. Another is
whether the innocent spouse condoned the
misconduct. Thus, persons who commit marital
misconduct during the marriage, or after
separation, may jeopardize their entitlement
to receive spousal support. Examples of
behavior that might be construed as marital
misconduct are adultery during the marriage;
post separation cohabitation; and moving out
of the marital residence without adequate
“Fault” is not a bar to receiving APL.
The amount of support and APL that must
be paid is calculated pursuant to the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Support
Guidelines, which are presumed to be the
correct amount of support. Thus, the key to
calculating the amount of support owed is to
correctly determine each spouse’s net
Income can be more than wages reported on income tax returns. Attention should be paid to income such as corporate and partnership distributions, annuity income, automobile expenses, bonuses, capital gains, charitable or political contributions, commissions, depreciation, disability income, dividend income, earning capacity, entertainment/meals, gift income, inheritance, life insurance premiums, malpractice insurance premiums, insurance proceeds, interest income, loan payments, proceeds of loans, sale of marital property, military housing allotment, pension benefits, pension contributions by employers and employees, personal injury lawsuit proceeds, rental income, severance pay, retained earnings, Social Security benefits, Social Security Disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, stock options, tax refunds, trust income, unemployment compensation benefits, unreimbursed employee expenses and workers compensation benefits. Because determining income can be complicated, it is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.
Both spousal support and APL may be
modified. The petition for modification
should explain the changes upon which the
petition is based. The change should be
significant. Changes which may qualify
include a revision of the support
guidelines, involuntary reduction in income,
the obligor’s retirement, increase in
expenses of the obligor or obligee, job
loss, incarceration, medical conditions
rendering either the obligor or obligee
unable to work.
The Support Guidelines will change on May 12, 2010. People paying and receiving support should reevaluate their cases in light of the new guidelines.
If you would like to speak with Attorney Jana R. Barnett about spousal support or APL, and learn how she can assist you, call her at 610-478-1860, or click here to send her an e-mail, and she will reply as quickly as possible.