Spousal Support, Alimony, and APL
Three Types of Support Between Spouses
In Pennsylvania, other than child support, there are three types of support a spouse may be required to provide to another spouse. The divisions are based on the status of the case: before a divorce is filed, during litigation of a divorce, and after the entry of a divorce decree.
The first type of support is Spousal Support, which can begin from the first separation of the parties. Spousal support is based on need and can be refused to a party who has been found guilty of fault, abandonment, cohabitation, abuse, etc. This is one of the few areas where fault is considered. Fault will not generally be considered in determining the amount of support.
After divorce has been filed, support can transition into Alimony Pendente Lite which loosely translates to "alimony pending litigation", or APL. This begins on the date of the divorce complaint and ends on the date on which the divorce decree is entered.
For both spousal support and APL the calculation is based on a relatively simple mathematic formula. Spousal support where there are no children or at least no child support would be 40% of the difference in the parties' net incomes. Parties are given credit for limited expenses such as mortgage payments on the marital home and payments made for the portion of a health insurance premium that covers the other person. When there is a child support order spousal support is based on 30% of the difference in the parties income after child support.
The final form of support is Alimony. PA Courts do not hand out alimony as generously as in other states, and even when granted, alimony is usually awarded only for a certain period of time. Generally, the only cases where Alimony is awarded are those cases with a significant difference in current earnings and the possibility of future earnings. The other place alimony is frequently found is where it is used to compensate for an uneven split of another asset. For instance, a person may offer alimony in exchange for getting to keep his or her retirement account in full.
The purpose of alimony is to support the other spouse until he or she can find a means of self-support. Remember when evaluating Alimony that these payments are tax -deductible for the party paying and taxable income for the party receiving.
There are a number of websites offering free simplified support calculators. Although these will only give you a ballpark they can help you understand your budget better. When looking for an online calculator make sure that it is up to date as the support rules change. Remember also that every State has its own set of support guidelines so running numbers based on a California calculator program won't tell you what to expect in PA. Please feel free to use the link to the PA Department of Human Services support calculator available on through website at www.jordanreillylaw.com to help determine your support.
Many attorneys offer free consultations and should be able to run your numbers through support software for you. As with any case, beware of the attorney who promises you the moon or won't give you specific answers as to what to expect. There are always arguments to be made to shift things in one party's favor but in the end there should be a relatively clear cut ballpark. Don't be afraid to question the basis of an attorney's calculations.
Finally, as with anything, the more information you provide the better. So, if support is part of your case, try to bring pay stubs, tax returns, mortgage statements and any other documents that will help the attorney accurately determine your and your spouse's net incomes. The more prepared and organized you, as the client are, the less you will have to pay for your representation. A great deal of attorney billing in Divorce and Support cases is dedicated to organizing and making sense of the parties' financial picture. Simplifying that and organizing it yourself can save you a significant number of billable hours.