When two people are getting a divorce, Pennsylvania courts realize that one spouse often has some significant financial disadvantages. In order to ensure both spouses can meet their basic needs, the court will often put some temporary orders in place until the various issues of the divorce can get worked out.
One of these orders is an alimony pendente lite (APL) order. “Pendente lite” is Latin for “pending litigation.”
This order will set a temporary amount for one spouse to pay to the other.
It’s not an automatic order. The judge won’t set one just because you file for a divorce. A divorce attorney will have to request the order for you, along with any other temporary orders that might need to be put in place while the divorce is pending. If the judge deems APL is unnecessary the court will refuse to award APL to either spouse.
This award is at the discretion of the judge, and is based upon the receiving spouse’s need. Despite the discretionary nature of this award, it will often be set at 30 to 40% of the difference between both spouse’s income, unless the court deems that this amount is excessive. The judge will know, because your attorney will outline your expenses as well as your pending legal costs in the order. The latter is important because Pennsylvania law does allow judges to award APL in order to help the lower earning spouse litigate or defend the divorce.
It’s important to keep in mind that spousal support is not need-based, but is based on a series of factors that the court must take into consideration before they may make an award. The award amount will also be based, in part, on Pennsylvania formulas. The factors include everything from the length of the marriage to the ages and earning capacity of the litigants.
It’s important to note that the setting of spousal support awards is one of the few places in Pennsylvania family law where the behavior of either spouse matters. According to Title 23, Chapter 37, one of the 17 decision factors reads as follows:
“The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party.”
This is an important point to keep in mind regardless of whether you might pay for support or receive it, as it indicates to what degree you and your attorney will want to stress any marital misconduct during the case. It is possible that bad behavior on the part of either spouse may be used as leverage while negotiating a settlement.
There are a few takeaways here.
First, if you’ve received an APL award it’s important to avoid depending on it. The amount you’re receiving today will not represent tomorrow’s finances. You might wish to pursue an education, training, or employment before the divorce is finalized.
Because, second, long-term spousal support awards are becoming much rarer nationwide. It would be unwise to base your entire long-term life strategy on the idea that your spouse will have to pay you for life. In addition, spouses are often willing to give up a great deal if they can have alimony reduced or eliminated. Preparing yourself can thus strengthen your bargaining position in a number of arenas.
Need help securing APL, or negotiating your divorce case? Contact us for a free consultation today.