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What You Need to Know About Alimony Pendente Lite

hundred dollar billWhen you’re facing a divorce, you quickly realize that financial decisions are going to be made that will impact the rest of your life. Some of the major economic aspects of a divorce include the division and distribution of assets, child custody, child support, and spousal support or alimony. Pennsylvania courts have the power to order and enforce a “fair resolution” to maintain economic equity between the partners when processing and finalizing a divorce.

If you’re in the middle of a tough situation, call a compassionate Montco divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. Contact us at (866) 290-9292 to schedule a free initial consultation today.

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Understanding Alimony Pendente Lite

In Montgomery County, issues such as divorce are assigned to the Domestic Relations segment of the Family Court, which is a division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. This department tries to ensure all parties are protected in family-related disputes. One of the key functions of the court is the administration and enforcement of support. One such order is alimony pendente lite (APL): when a dependent spouse is seeking financial support during the divorce process.

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Who Qualifies as the Dependent Spouse in Pennsylvania?

Essentially, a dependent spouse is one who can prove he or she lacks the ability to generate enough income to provide for necessities, including food, clothing, and shelter. In making such a determination, the court will gather and review income-related documentation to compare the earnings of the spouses. There are various contributing factors that may impact a dependent spouse’s status, such as:

  • The individual has a general lack of marketable skills.
  • The individual is lacking in education.
  • The individual has a medical problem such as poor health, illness, etc.
  • The individual has to care for young children, which limits his or her earning potential.

The dependent spouse is entitled to support at a level that equals a reasonable lifestyle compared to what he or she experienced during the course of the marriage, assuming the other spouse has the financial means to do so.

In addition to these basic necessities, support orders commonly encompass healthcare-related expenses. The dependent spouse may request coverage for medical, dental, and pharmacy costs. Additionally, the court may require the higher-earning spouse to pay for childcare expenses, which would allow the dependent spouse to either begin work or attend school.

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Alimony FAQs in Pennsylvania

Q: What is alimony?

A: Alimony is a payment that is usually made monthly by the spouse who is more financially secure to a former spouse who is not as financially secure. Alimony is sometimes ordered to help the lower-earning spouse meet his or her basic needs, while other times, it is used as a substitute for asset distribution when certain assets cannot be divided.

Q: How long do I need to wait until I receive alimony?

A: Once the divorce decree is finalized by a judge, alimony payments should start right away.

Q: How is alimony calculated?

A: By the courts. They will use a detailed analysis to determine the budget and needs of the party seeking alimony to understand what is reasonable, required, and realistic. The factors taken into consideration when determining alimony payments include:

  • The earnings of both spouses.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The ages and health of each spouse, including physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Sources of income for each spouse including medical, retirement, and insurance benefits.
  • Expected future earnings and inheritances of each spouse.
  • The contributions of one spouse to the other’s education, training, or increased earning potential.
  • The degree to which one spouse is financially affected by being the main caregiver of a minor child.
  • A reasonable lifestyle comparable to the couple’s lifestyle while living together (though, if people are living beyond their means, the court won’t continue it.)
  • The education of both spouses, including how long it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the necessary education or training to find employment.
  • Assets and liabilities of each spouse.
  • Property each spouse brought into the marriage.
  • The household contributions of one spouse.
  • The needs of both spouses.
  • Marital misconduct, or abuse, inflicted by either spouse.

Q: Does infidelity affect alimony?

A: Infidelity is an emotionally-charged issue in any divorce. However, it will have no effect on alimony payments.

Q: When does alimony end?

A: When the court enters an order of alimony, it determines the duration of the order, which can be for a definite or an indefinite length of time – whatever is reasonable based on the circumstances. Pennsylvania law states that the right to receive alimony under an order will cease if either party dies, unless there was an alternative agreement already in place. Alimony may also stop before this determined time if the spouse receiving alimony gets remarried or cohabitates with another person.

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Alimony Changes and Modifications in Pennsylvania

Alimony orders can be modified for substantial changes in either party’s circumstances. The most common example would be a significant increase or decrease to one spouse’s income, which could result from a change in employment or an unfortunate illness. Alimony may be deemed “unmodifiable” by the courts, however, which means the arrangement cannot be changed regardless of how the former spouses’ circumstances change.

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Spouse with Whereabouts Unknown

Unfortunately, there are spouses who may be in need of support from an "absent" spouse whose whereabouts are not known. All Pennsylvania counties are empowered to locate these individuals, who may be avoiding or neglecting their responsibilities. These efforts have been furthered by interagency cooperation and support on a national level, using information such as:

  • Tax information from federal, state, or local entities.
  • Data from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles driver's license database.
  • Credit bureau and reporting agency data.
  • Records for public assistance, such as food assistance.
  • Information stemming from employment such as I-9 and W4 filings.
  • Inmate institutional registries.

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Alimony Enforcement

What’s the process when the person responsible for providing alimony violates the order by failing to make payments? The Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Division of Domestic Relations provides a framework of the various tools they employ to enforce these orders:

  • Conduct hearing(s) to validate that there are arrearages in the alimony payment schedule.
  • Seize possessions and goods, as well as real-estate-related rents or profits.
  • Garnish the wages of the individual failing to comply with the order, up to 50% to satisfy arrearages and secure the future payments required.
  • Apply interest penalties to past-due amounts, and also require payment of associated legal fees and costs.
  • In extreme cases, the court may declare the individual in contempt of court, punishable by a period of incarceration up to six months.

Are you going through a divorce that will have lasting financial ramifications? If you’re facing a complex Pennsylvania family law case, you owe it to yourself to contact the best. The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., will evaluate your case at no charge after you reach us to schedule an appointment. We will help you navigate this emotional time with the focus, diligence, and strength we have developed while representing the rights of residents in Montgomery, Delaware, Philadelphia, and Chester for over 25 years.

Attorney Sheryl Rentz has an established record of obtaining great results. Contact us today at (866) 290-9292 for a consultation.

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Law Office of Sheryl R. Rentz

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Montgomery County Alimony Attorney Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth here were dependent on the facts of that case and the results will differ from case to case. Please contact a lawyer at our law firm office. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of PA.

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