In Pennsylvania, a financially dependent spouse may receive three different types of support: (1) spousal support, (2) alimony pendente lite, and (3) alimony.
Spousal support is a monetary support that is paid to the financially dependent spouse after the spouses have separated, but before the Pennsylvania Divorce Complaint is filed. A fault, which is whether the financially dependent spouse is the cause of the divorce proceedings, is a factor in deciding whether a person is eligible for spousal support. The paying spouse can raise an entitlement defense if the financially dependent spouse is the cause of the breakdown of the marriage – thus limiting or eliminating the need for the paying spouse to pay spousal support.
Alimony pendente lite was designed to ensure that the financially dependent spouse has enough monetary resources to pay for an attorney during a Pennsylvania divorce. Because of this inherent reasoning, it does not matter whether the financially dependent spouse was the cause of the breakdown of the marriage or not – the spouse still deserves the right to an attorney, and thus the paying spouse still needs to pay.
Alimony is a support that is paid to a financially dependent spouse after the PA Divorce Decree is finalized. After the court considers the parties’ income and what was awarded to each spouse during equitable distribution, the court will award alimony. Alimony, however, is only awarded to a spouse that cannot meet their reasonable financial needs when the other spouse has the ability to meet his or her own needs plus the financially dependent spouse’s. Much like spousal support, the court does look at fault when determining if alimony should be awarded. In Pennsylvania, alimony is usually terminated when the financially dependent spouse begins living with another person – in a marriage-like relationship – or when the financially dependent spouse remarries or dies.