Spousal Support Attorneys in Pittsburgh
Support Payments Before and During a Divorce
There are two forms of support payments available to a spouse in Pennsylvania before a divorce is finalized: spousal support and alimony pendente lite (which is also referred to as APL). Support that is paid after a divorce is known as alimony, which operates on entirely different principles from pre-divorce support. Spousal support and APL, on the other hand, are fairly similar. The spouse with a lower income or lower earning capacity can receive only spousal support or APL, but not both. If the receiving spouse is also collecting child support payments, then their spousal support would be reduced by a formula. In some cases, one spouse may be entitled to receive spousal support or APL, while at the same time they are obligated to paying child support to the other spouse. Generally, the court will “offset” competing claims. For example, if a spouse is owed $1,000 a month in child support but owes $250 a month in spousal support, they would simply receive $750 a month in child support.
What is the difference between spousal support and APL? Spousal support is paid before either party actually files for a divorce. Alimony pendente lite literally means "alimony pending the litigation"; this support only kicks in when the divorce papers have been filed. Generally, spousal support cannot be ordered if both spouses live in the same household, unless one spouse refuses to pay any of the household's costs. The spouse paying support could object to making these payments on the grounds that the other spouse was the one considered at fault in a fault-based divorce. This defense is rarely successful, however. Since APL is meant to enable both spouses to afford going through the divorce, it will not matter if the spouse receiving APL committed an action that was the basis of a fault-based divorce.
How to Calculate Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite
Generally speaking, the amount of spousal support or APL is based upon a formula that is contained in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. There are different formulas depending on whether child support is also involved. To arrive at a spouse's net monthly income, one deducts certain expenses (such as taxes and union dues) from his or her gross income. Bonuses and overtime are often calculated as a part of gross income. But matters can become complicated or contentious. For example, in certain circumstances the Court can assign an “earning capacity” to a spouse who is underemployed or unemployed. Additional amounts added to a support award often include a percentage of childcare costs, private school tuition, and mortgage costs, on a case by case basis.
On top of this, the Court may “deviate” from the “guideline” award amount based upon unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations, other support obligations and other factors. Also, the Court may limit the duration of spousal support or APL for a short marriage.
These support payments can last indefinitely, but generally APL and spousal support only lasts until the divorce. This sometimes gives the receiving spouse a reason to delay the process, and the paying spouse a reason to finalize the divorce quickly. Support for an ex-spouse after the divorce is simply called alimony. Alimony is entirely different in from APL and spousal support in how it is awarded and calculated.
Taxes and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania
The tax overhaul of 1999 changed the deductibility of APL and spousal support. Formerly, both APL and spousal support were tax deductible and an “unallocated” award for APL and child support was entirely tax deductible. Now, neither APL nor spousal support is tax deductible. Child support has never been tax deductible. Because of this major tax change, the calculation for child support, APL and spousal support were radically revised, generally leading to lower support amounts. However, tax liability concerns remain an essential element of a smart divorce settlement.
Health Insurance in a Support Order
Health insurance coverage is often a component of any support order. The APL or spousal support order will generally require a party to provide medical coverage for the other spouse and any children. In addition, the support order will set a percentage split for unreimbursed medical expenses after a threshold is met. Medical insurance coverage is also a common issue in a divorce settlement.
Get the Legal Counsel You Need from a Divorce Lawyer
Family law is an area of the legal field that is constantly changing, one that requires the guidance of a legal expert. If you are facing a divorce or any matter of family law, then it is advisable that you consult with a divorce attorney in Pittsburgh as quickly as possible.
At the Rosen Family Law Group, we have nearly 20 years of experience helping families navigate such legal matters as spousal support and APL, even in complex divorce cases. All Pittsburgh family lawyers at our firm are experienced in assessing your earning capacity or calculating your income for support purposes. This includes calculating income from a business, from a professional practice, or from being self-employed. We also have the experience to assist you if your case involves mortgage deviation, special expenses, or military pay.
As it is in your best interests to work with an attorney as soon as possible, do not hesitate to contact our firm today to learn how we may be able to help.