Every divorce comes with a host of issues which may be confusing to those who have never before encountered them. Alimony is one of those issues. And while most people are familiar with the concept of alimony, Pennsylvania has two types that you may not have heard of at all.
The terms spousal support and alimony are often used interchangeably but, under Pennsylvania law, they’re completely different. Alimony refers to money directed from one spouse to another once the divorce is final. In other words, alimony can’t even begin until the final divorce judgement is entered.
Spousal support, on the other hand, can be ordered before a divorce proceeding even begins. Its purpose is to provide for one spouse when there is a significant difference in the financial security between two spouses. If a couple is having marital difficulties, for instance, and are living separately, a financially dependent spouse can request spousal support from a court. The spouse who must pay spousal support may be able to defend against it but, if ordered by the court, it can continue until the divorce is finalized.
Alimony pendente lite
Unlike spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL) cannot begin until the formal divorce proceeding has begun. Beyond basic support, it can also provide legal expenses, so that the spouses are on more equal footing while the divorce proceeds. Also unlike spousal support, the spouse who would be ordered to pay it cannot raise a formal defense to APL. It is solely within the discretion of the court. However, the financially dependent spouse should not be seen as dragging out the litigation unnecessarily – otherwise, the court may decide that APL is not warranted and end it.