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The Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite

Shabbick & Associates, PC Feb. 8, 2024

When a couple decides to separate or divorce, financial assistance may be required from one spouse to another.  

Spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL) are two types of financial support that may be ordered by a court during divorce proceedings. Although they both involve one spouse providing financial assistance to the other, there are important differences between these two forms of support. 

This article aims to provide a base foundation and understanding of spousal support and APL, with a specific lens on Pennsylvania law. So keep in mind that these laws are not only more complex than what we'll get into here but specific laws and guidelines may vary by state. 

For legal counsel tailored to you, it's important to contact a family law attorney in your state or the state where the divorce is taking place.  

Spousal Support in Pennsylvania 

Spousal support in Pennsylvania is designed as a provision for the reasonable living expenses of a spouse who is financially dependent during the separation but before divorce.  

Unlike APL, which is intended to provide support during litigation, spousal support may be provided as soon as the parties separate, even before a divorce action is filed.  

Determinations of spousal support in Pennsylvania are based on a set of guidelines that consider the income of both spouses and the reasonable needs of the spouse seeking support. The aim is to maintain a standard of living similar to the one enjoyed during the marriage, to the extent that it is possible given the couple's combined financial picture.  

Factors Influencing Spousal Support Decisions 

When determining spousal support, the court meticulously examines a variety of factors to ensure a fair and equitable support arrangement that reflects both the needs of the recipient spouse and the financial capabilities of the payor spouse.  

The court considers:  

  • Duration of the marriage. 

  • Prior standard of living. 

  • Relative earnings and earning capacities of both parties. 

  • Existence of any marital misconduct. 

  • Financial needs of the dependent spouse (age, health, responsibilities for children). 

  • The ability of the other spouse to pay. 

This comprehensive analysis allows for a personalized approach to each case, reflecting the unique circumstances of the separating couple, while ensuring both parties move forward with dignity and stability. 

Understanding Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) 

Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) serves as a financial lifeline for the lower-income spouse during the divorce litigation. It ensures that both parties can fully participate in the divorce proceedings without financial distress.  

Unlike spousal support, APL is specifically anchored to the legal process itself, initiating only after a divorce complaint has been filed and ceasing once the divorce is finalized.  

How Does APL Work? 

To initiate the process for APL, an individual must file a petition or motion in the court where the divorce proceedings are taking place.  

We'd also advise seeking legal counsel experienced in family law to assist with this procedure. Your legal team will prepare and present the necessary documentation, demonstrating the financial necessity and justifying the request for support based on disparities in income and potential earning capacities.  

The court will then evaluate the merits of the request, considering a variety of factors including, but not limited to: 

  • The duration of the marriage. 

  • The standard of living established during the marriage. 

  • The separate assets and liabilities of the partners.  

Following a thorough review, the court will issue an order for APL, ensuring that litigation can proceed equitably for both parties involved.  

How Family Law Attorneys Can Help  

Engaging the services of a seasoned family law attorney is essential when navigating the difficulties of spousal support and alimony pendente lite. Experienced attorneys bring an in-depth understanding of Pennsylvania law, adeptly guiding clients through the convoluted legal requirements and advocating for their rights. They work diligently to ensure that the financial support arrangements reflect the unique nuances of each client's situation. 

An attorney's expertise can be invaluable in accurately presenting the financial picture, including income, needs, and potential earning capacity, to the court. They provide strategic advice on when to file motions, how to approach negotiations, and how to present evidence to secure a fair and sustainable support agreement.  

Moreover, a qualified lawyer's counsel can prevent undue hardship by avoiding common pitfalls and ensuring that all procedural steps are properly addressed. Clients often share stories of relief and gratitude when reflecting on the personalized support and legal excellence they received during their divorce proceedings.  

For those seeking legal assistance with spousal support or APL in Pennsylvania, our law firm's enduring commitment to client care and legal proficiency will ensure the best possible outcome in your case. 

Recognizing the intricacies of APL, our attorneys leverage their extensive experience to advocate for a fair and just provisional measure of support for our clients.  

We understand that every case is unique, necessitating bespoke legal strategies shaped by the specificities of each client's situation. With unwavering dedication and legal acumen, we strive to safeguard your financial stability during one of life's most challenging transitions. 

Address Your Concerns Today 

Our attorneys at Shabbick & Associates, PC, are adept at navigating these guidelines to ensure a fair and equitable resolution for our clients. By taking a personalized approach, we tailor our strategy to meet the unique needs and circumstances of each individual we serve.  

In addition to in-person consultations, our clients benefit from the convenience of our accessible office locations in Bethlehem and Palmerton.  

Your peace of mind is our priority. We welcome you to reach out to us to gain a trusted partner in securing your financial interests.