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Pennsylvania spousal support during divorce

The final divorce decree helps spouses by requiring the other spouse to pay for alimony and child support. However, a spouse's expenses are not delayed or placed on hold during the divorce negotiations or court proceedings. This could weaken the economically disadvantaged spouse's ability to engage in litigation or settlement negotiations because they may be forced to agree to an expedited conclusion or settlement, as they cannot afford to continue.

Pennsylvania law addresses spousal support during an ongoing divorce proceeding. An alimony pendente lite (APL) provides this financial relief and equalizes the spouse's ability to proceed with or defend a divorce action. This may also be sought in annulment actions.

Courts consider a petitioner's ability to litigate or defend a divorce action on an equal basis. It also considers the responding spouse's ability to pay this support and both spouse's general financial status.

The parties' respective income is presumed to be the basis for the APL award, but the spouses can submit evidence to rebut this presumption. A court may also consider a spouse's earning ability, if they voluntary reduce their income. But, courts cannot issue simultaneous APL and alimony orders.

An APL must be filed as part of a divorce action. Courts do not consider an alleged marital misconduct. After the entry of the decree, spousal support may be converted into an APL, if there are pending economic claims.

APLs normally ends with the issuance of the divorce decree. It also terminates when the recipient receives a sufficient estate through. For example, equal alimony distribution that ends the recipient spouse's need for having equal footing to conduct the divorce litigation.

An APL can be awarded to make it effective back to the date that the divorce was filed. It cannot be confiscatory. Courts may also award reasonable attorney fees and expenses until the litigation concludes. A judge can also order ongoing maintenance and designation of beneficiaries or the purchase of life and health insurance.

A spouse faces the risk of losing rights and facing future financial consequences for making decisions on divorce legal issues under duress or without proper consideration. An attorney can assist a spouse and help assure that they can exercise their rights in these actions.

Source: SPLAS.org, "Alimony pendente lite (APL)," accessed on Feb. 11, 2017

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