Choosing the Right Alimony & Spousal Support Lawyers in Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton, Pennsylvania
Our Easton Divorce Attorneys handle Alimony & Spousal Support cases at all levels, ranging from initial filings to appeals. We work closely with clients to review income and achieve the best possible outcome in support cases in Easton, Allentown & Bethlehem.
While many people use the terms Alimony and Spousal Support interchangeably they are very distinct legal concepts, defenses and durations. Further complicating matters is the existence of Alimony Pendente Lite, often referred to as simply APL.
Spousal Support is awarded to a, lesser earning, “innocent” spouse. Spousal Support differs from APL and Alimony in a few ways. Alimony and APL require the filing of a divorce whereas Spousal Support does not. To collect Spousal Support, the party seeking support is often required to prove that they are an “innocent” party, such proof is not required for APL.
Spousal Support orders are issued to assure a reasonable living allowance for the party requiring support and the duty to provide Spousal Support is concomitant with the marital relationship and terminates with the ending of the marriage.
APL, short for Alimony Pendente Lite, may be awarded to a lesser earning spouse to allow him or her to provide for expenses, including legal expenses, between the time a divorce is filed and the time a divorce is finalized. Unlike Spousal Support, collection of APL is not subject to the multiple of defenses available to Spousal Support.
When spousal support or APL is calculated, consideration is given to whether one party has any previous obligations in child support or spousal support of a previous spouse or other children. If there are no previous children and no prior obligations to child support, the spousal support will be 40 percent of the difference between the obligor’s net monthly income and the recipient’s net monthly income. If there are minor children involved, then the income difference is reduced by the amount of child support, with that result multiplied by 30 percent to determine spousal support. The length of the marriage is also taken into consideration, as is the amount of time an obligor spends with the children.
Alimony, unlike Spousal Support and APL, is only collectable after a divorce has been finalized. As a typical rule of thumb, the local Courts will award one (1) year of alimony for every three (3) years of marriage. Depending on the terms of a divorce, Alimony may or may not cease upon the collecting party’s co-habitation with another individual.
• Overtime pay
• Rental income
• Retirement income
• Social Security retirement or disability payments
• Workers’ compensation
• Unemployment compensation
• Income from an interest in a business
• Entitlements to lump sum awards such as lottery winnings
In order to file for support or to file for modification of an existing support order you will need to go to the Domestic Relations Office and file the appropriate form. Call ahead because some counties may charge a fee to file an initial Complaint or a Petition for Modification.
A support conference is a meeting with a neutral county employee whose job is to attempt to either obtain an agreement or to produce a recommendation for the Court. If the parties cannot agree to a support amount the conference officer may tell you the recommended amount before you leave the conference, or they may take the matter under advisement and mail the recommended order to the parties a few days later.
If the parties are unable to agree to a support amount at the time of the conference or if either party disagrees with the amount recommended by the conference officer, the case may be listed for a hearing de novo. Depending on the county this hearing is either with a Judge or someone appointed by the Judge (usually called a master or hearing officer).
If the hearing is with a judge, the judge will typically issue a final order within a few days. If the hearing is with a master of hearing officer, a recommended order will be issued in a few days.
If and only if the hearing de novo was before a master or a hearing officer and the hearing officer makes a legal error in calculating child support, you or your attorney can take exceptions to the recommendation and ask for a judge to review the decision of the master or hearing officer.
After a judge makes a final decision in your case, you have 30 days to appeal the decision to a higher court. A higher court will not reconsider the facts of your case, it will only review the judge’s decision to determine if the judge made any legal errors.
Bring the following items to your support conference:
Adultery, Abandonment and Abuse are very relevant to determinations of Spousal Support but often have little to no impact on APL determinations.
APL has a two-year limit with some rare exceptions.
There is a local practice of typically ordering an alimony liability of one (1) year for every three (3) years of marriage. However, this is often negotiated downwards.
Pursuant to Title 23 Pa. C.S. § 3701(b) the relevant factors in determining the award of alimony, the nature, amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony are as follows:
1. The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties;
2. The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;
3. The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits;
4.The expectancies and inheritances of the parites;
5. The duration of the marriage;
6. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of the minor child;
8. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
9. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment;
10. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties;
11. The property brought to the marriage by either party;
12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
13. The relative needs of the parties;
14. The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage; the marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony;
15. The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
16. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs;
17. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.