Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, married people have the legal responsibility to support their spouse.
Upon separating, it is likely that the spouse who earns more money will be required to pay Support to the spouse who earns less. The support payments that are required between married people is most commonly called “Spousal Support.” Like with Child Support, Spousal Support is calculated based on guidelines which were created by the Pennsylvania legislature, and a Spousal Support action is initiated by the filing of a Complaint in the Domestic Relations Office. If you are separated from your spouse, or are considering separating from your spouse, it is critical that you learn about the rights and responsibilities you will have upon separation. I encourage you to call my office to schedule a Free Initial Consultation so that we can discuss the specifics of your case.
The calculation of Spousal Support is based on the difference of the net incomes of the parties. The party required to pay Spousal Support pays a percentage of the difference in net incomes. If the party paying Spousal Support is also paying Child Support to the recipient, then the amount of Child Support paid will be subtracted from the differences in net income, and the Spousal Support will be equal to 30% of the remaining difference. If the parties do not have children in common, or if no Child Support is paid between the parties, then Spousal Support will be equal to 40% of the difference in the parties’ net monthly incomes. Just as a matter of illustration, here is an example: If Adam earns a net income of $5,000 per month, and Erin earns a net income of $1,000 per month, then the Spousal Support due from Adam to Erin, assuming they have no children for which Adam pays child support, will be $1,600/month (40% x $4,000*). If Adam were paying $1,000/month Child Support to Erin, then the Spousal Support would be $900/month (30% x $3,000**). *$4,000 is the difference between the parties’ net monthly incomes. **$3,000 is the difference between the parties’ net monthly incomes, minus the Child Support paid by Adam to Erin.
Some Common Questions About Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
What is the difference between Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) and Spousal Support?
Similar to Spousal Support, a party to a divorce action may be entitled to Alimony Pendente Lite (“APL”), which is a way of saying “Alimony while the divorce is still pending.” Alimony Pendente Lite is calculated using the same guidelines as Spousal Support. The two concepts are basically interchangeable, and for the most part mean the same thing to the parties involved. The primary difference between Spousal Support and Alimony> Pendente Lite is that the party who is required to make the payments may be able to raise an “entitlement defense” to paying Spousal Support, but they will not be able to raise a defense when demanded to pay Alimony Pendente Lite. By raising an “entitlement defense,” the party asked to pay Support is saying that the receiving party is not “entitled” to receive Support. Most commonly, a party will raise an entitlement defense when the party who is requesting Support has committed adultery during the marriage. While adultery may be a defense to the need to pay Spousal Support, it is not a defense to a claim for Alimony Pendente Lite.
How long do you have to pay spousal support in Pennsylvania?
A party that is paying Spousal Support is likely going to pay the obligation until a Divorce Decree is issued. Since Spousal Support can become a relatively long-term obligation in a Divorce that is contested and/or otherwise delayed, it is often a financial strain to the party paying the obligation, and very beneficial to the party who is receiving it. Spousal Support will terminate upon the entry of a Divorce Decree and any payments after that time will be referred to as “Alimony.” There will be a number of different reasons that a party may have for either wanting to expedite or delay the Divorce proceedings, and the pendency of Spousal Support may be one of those reasons.