Spousal support obligation arises out of the marriage relationship. Support may be awarded prior to the commencement of divorce proceedings and during the separation/estranged phase. Alimony pendent lite (APL) can only be awarded after the commencement of divorce proceedings but prior to a divorce decree. The main difference between the two is the timing of the filing for divorce and the defenses that may be claimed. Generally there are no defenses to a claim for APL while a person may have a defense precluding a spouse from asserting the need for spousal support. Defenses that may be asserted as grounds for divorce are also defenses to spousal support such as adultery and cruel and barbarous treatment. Therefore, a spouse that has committed adultery may not be entitled to receive support during the separation phase but could quite possible receive APL once the divorce action is filed.
Spousal support and APL are calculated the same. The formula takes into consideration the Obligor’s net monthly income minus support payments obligor may have as result of other dependents or former spouses minus child support payments from current litigation minus obligee’s net monthly income multiplied by thirty (30%) percent. If the parties have no children or child support orders the number would be multiplied by forty (40%) percent. This formula has been adjusted to require the court to consider the length of marriage in determining its award. The primary purpose of this provision is to prevent the unfairness that arises in a short-term marriage when the obligor is required to pay support over a substantially longer period of time than the parties were married and there is little or no opportunity for credit for these payments at the time of equitable distribution.
The third type of support is alimony. The purpose of alimony is to effect economic justice, but it is a secondary remedy and applies only if economic justice cannot be achieved by way of equitable distribution. This type of an award is rendered post divorce decree to achieve such justice. There is no formula Pennsylvania courts use to assist in its award. Rather courts will rely on the seventeen subjective factors listed in 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 3701 (b). Some of those factors are: length of the marriage; the ages and physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties; sources of income of the parties; earning capacities of the parties; the earning powers of the parties and the relative needs of the parties.
Child Support: These are payments due to the support of the child regardless of marital status. Pursuant to federal law, The Family Support Act of 1988 (P. L. 100-485, 102 Stat. 2343 (1988), requires all states to have statewide child support guidelines.
The guidelines take into consideration the parents’ net monthly income. Once that figure has been determined the guidelines state what the support payments are monthly. The total payments increase with each child. The parties are responsible for that suggested guideline figure. That total figure will be divided according to the percentage of time the child is with their respective parent. These figures can also be reduced if there are any ongoing support obligations. Any deviations are based upon a case by case basis.