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Differences between spousal support and alimony

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2019 | Firm News |

A divorce is an emotional and financial parting of the ways. While soon-to-be former spouses work through the family dissolution and emotional fallout, the division of assets and other financial issues often weigh on spouses’ minds. Alimony can be a very contentious and high-conflict portion of a divorce proceeding. In such a situation, you may be concerned with the cost of supporting your former spouse.

Under Pennsylvania law, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony are three distinct and different types of support. Pennsylvania often requires a higher-earning or solely-employed spouse to provide financial support for the stay-at-home parent.

Spousal support

In the State of Pennsylvania, spousal support is temporary financial assistance. During the divorce filing process, the higher earning spouse provides support payments to the lower earning. A judge typically examines the various circumstances, but the law has no established firm guidelines or formula for a financial award. The court often awards money to a spouse if the couple was married for a substantial length of time and a financial hardship would result from a separation.

Alimony Pendente Lite

During a divorce proceeding, one spouse often leaves the family residence. This disrupts the family’s financial situation during the divorce proceeding. A lower-earning or unemployed spouse needs adequate funding to pay for the home, transportation, food and other essentials. The Pennsylvania court system uses the following formula to determine the amount of money awarded to the spouse. With this calculator, the court combines both spouses’ incomes. The lower-earning spouse receives 40% of while the higher-earning spouse typically retains 60%. However, the lower-earning spouse receives 30% of the combined net income when the couple has children because the law often requires the higher-earning spouse to pay child support.


The court system in Pennsylvania considers several factors when determining alimony. However, there is no iron-clad calculator, such as with Alimony Pendente Lite. In most cases former spouses are better off to mediate a divorce settlement that includes alimony. Litigating the matter in court can produce an undesirable outcome for both parties.

The higher-earning former spouse pays alimony to the other spouse for a set period of time as stated in the divorce decree, but the law does not provide guidelines for a time restriction. In some cases, there is rehabilitative alimony in which a spouse is paid for a few years while the lower-earning spouse is transitioning to a new career.


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