West Chester, PA 19380
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Lee Ciccarelli is the founder and managing partner of Ciccarelli Law Offices with over two decades experience as a practicing attorney.
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Many people use the terms alimony and spousal support interchangeably, but the truth is that there are key differences between these types of payments in a divorce case. Alimony refers to an order for support made when a divorce has been finalized while spousal support is paid after the parties have separated but before the final divorce decree is entered—possibly before a divorce action has even been filed.
In certain cases, parties may be able to obtain alimony pendente lite (APL), which is an order for support made after the divorce action has been filed but before the divorce has been finalized. The phrase “pendente lite” is Latin for "awaiting the litigation" or "pending the litigation."
APL is calculated similarly to spousal support, but there are some key differences in regards to timing and eligibility. APL awards are largely intended to allow dependent spouses to have the resources necessary to afford legal representation.
If you need assistance filing or defending against an APL claim, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Ciccarelli Law Offices helps clients all over southeastern Pennsylvania, including communities in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, and the greater Philadelphia area.
Our divorce attorneys in West Chester understand the tremendous stress involved in these types of cases and help people understand all of their legal options. You can receive an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (877) 529-2422 to take advantage of a free initial consultation.
Under 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701, courts may allow spouses “reasonable alimony pendente lite, spousal support and reasonable counsel fees and expenses” upon petition in proper cases. Spousal support often becomes alimony pendente lite automatically upon the filing of a divorce complaint.
APL can only be awarded when divorce actions have been commenced. Pennsylvania Code Rule 1910.16-1(b) establishes that the amount of child support, spousal support, or alimony pendente lite to be awarded pursuant to the procedures under Pennsylvania Code Rules 1910.11 and 1910.12 must be determined in accordance with state guidelines that includes a formula established under Pennsylvania Code Rule 1910.16-4.
Dependent spouses in alimony typically get 40 percent of the difference in net incomes, or 30 percent of the difference (after subtracting child support) if there are minor children. Pennsylvania Code Rule 1910.16-1(c) further states that in cases of spousal support and alimony pendente lite:
In McKeown v. McKeown, 417 Pa. Superior Ct. 520 (1992), the Superior Court wrote in reversing a trial court’s order denying a husband's petition to terminate spousal support:
A dependent spouse may receive both spousal support and alimony pendente lite. Although both awards are temporary in nature, spousal support and alimony pendente lite are separate and distinct creations of the law. Krakovsky v. Krakovsky, 400 Pa.Super. 260, 583 A.2d 485 (1990). Spousal support provides living expenses for a dependent spouse prior to the resolution of the divorce. Levine, supra; Fexa v. Fexa, 396 Pa.Super. 481, 578 A.2d 1314 (1990). The duty to pay spousal support stems from the marital relationship itself and terminates upon the dissolution of the marriage. Levine, supra; Fexa, supra. On the other hand, alimony pendente lite is awarded for the period between the entry of the divorce decree and the distribution of the marital property. The purpose of alimony pendente lite is to preserve economic equality between the parties pending the resolution of equitable division, thereby allowing the dependent spouse to maintain or defend the divorce action. Krakovsky, supra.
The major difference between spousal support and APL is the timing. As the Superior Court noted, APL can only be awarded when divorce actions have been filed, but spousal support can be awarded as soon as the husband and wife have legally separated.
Another difference concerns a person’s ability to raise an affirmative defense. In spousal support actions, a spouse may be able to use an entitlement defense that argues a dependent spouse is not entitled to support because he or she committed grounds for a fault-based divorce (such as infidelity).
Spouses cannot exercise entitlement defenses in APL because APL is intended to allow dependent spouses to have the necessary legal representation for divorce actions while equitable distribution of assets is often still being determined. APL is taxable income for dependent spouses.
Chester County Divorce Rules and Forms | Chester County, PA — On this section of the official website of Chester County, you can learn more about the rules and procedures relating to alimony pendente lite. Elsewhere under the Chester County Divorce Information section, you can also find filing instructions, a legal glossary, and a link to state divorce forms. You can also view answers to several frequently asked questions.
County of Chester
313 West Market Street
West Chester, PA 19380
Woodings v. Woodings, 601 A.2d 854 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1992) — On January 7, 1992, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania decided this case involving a couple who divorced on May 5, 1989 after reaching an agreement on April 6, 1989, for the equitable distribution of the marital estate and the payment of alimony to wife. In March 1990, the husband filed a petition to terminate the alimony “on the basis that wife was cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex not a member of her family,” but the trial court denied husband relief since the agreement between the two parties expressly disallowed modification of alimony and could only be terminated prior to December 1993 upon the wife's death. The husband appealed and argued that the wife's entitlement to receive alimony must be terminated as a result of her admission of cohabitation within the meaning of section 507 of the Divorce Code, which provided, “No petitioner shall be entitled to receive any award of alimony where such petitioner has entered into cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex who is not a member of the petitioner's immediate family within the degrees of consanguinity subsequent to the divorce pursuant to which alimony is being sought.” The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision not to change the agreement, writing:
To retain the sanctity of contract, which may not be changed or modified by court Orders, absent an ambiguity or fraud, section 401.1(c) (now section 3105(c)) provides that in the absence of specific provisions appearing in the agreement, disposition of property rights and interests between the parties, alimony, alimony pendente lite, counsel fees and expenses shall not be subject to modification by the court. (Subsection (b) in both 401.1 and 3105 reserves the right of the court to modify support, custody and visitation rights as to children upon a showing of changed circumstances. Rights of children may not be bargained away by parents).
*415 We have interpreted these provisions to 1) protect the agreement of the parties from subsequent modification by the court, unless modification is provided for in the agreement and 2) to permit the use of remedies and sanctions contained in the Divorce Code to enforce the agreements, in addition to the rights available at law for the enforcement of contracts by actions in assumpsit. The problems relating to incorporation and merger are, therefore, eliminated as to any agreements entered after 1988. The 1988 amendments as a matter of law provide for enforcement but not modification of agreements. See Jackson, supra.
If you have filed or are about to file for divorce in Pennsylvania and need legal assistance obtaining support from your spouse, contact Ciccarelli Law Offices today. We will fight for the most favorable ruling so you can get the help you need and deserve.
Our West Chester divorce attorneys also have office locations in Malvern, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, and Springfield. Call (877) 529-2422 or complete an online contact form to have our lawyers review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free consultation.