Historically, financially dependent spouses were so much at the mercy of the family breadwinner that they couldn’t even think of filing for divorce. With no resources of their own, they couldn’t survive on their own, let alone hire a lawyer. As a result, many spouses were trapped in loveless and/or abusive marriages without any realistic options. Fortunately, laws were reformed to allow dependent spouses to seek spousal support during the divorce process and even to use spousal support to pay for legal counsel. Kelly Family Law, PLLC manages this issue for clients on either side of the equation. As part of my comprehensive family law practice, I protect my clients’ financial interests as soon as divorce becomes a real possibility for them.
There are three types of support available to a financially dependent spouse in Pennsylvania:
An experienced family law attorney can help you determine which, if any, spousal support the law would allow and whether such a support order would be appropriate to your specific circumstances.
Courts determine the amount of spousal support and APL based on the net incomes of both parties in accordance with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The guidelines exist to provide consistency in court decisions so that parties in similar circumstances obtain similar outcomes. The guidelines provide a presumptive amount of support to meet the reasonable needs of a dependent spouse, but the court has discretion to deviate if unusual needs or extraordinary expenses exist. The court can also note whether a party’s income matches his or her earning capacity. If a supporting spouse seems to be earning less to deliberately reduce a support obligation, the court can impute income to that spouse and increase the support order.
The amount given for reasonable needs may not exactly match the usual living expenses of the dependent spouse, especially if there is a pattern of extravagant spending. Generally, a court will not grant spousal support or APL if the parties are still living together. However, exceptions to this rule do exist.
The order for spousal support or APL terminates when the divorce is finalized and the court rules on the issue of alimony.
Spousal support, APL and alimony are gender neutral in Pennsylvania, so the court can order either spouse to pay the other based solely on financial considerations.
As you can see, there is much room for discretion in support decisions. It is vitally important that you have a knowledgeable and skilled attorney presenting your case to the court, whether you anticipate paying or receiving support.
Kelly Family Law, PLLC provides reliable counsel and staunch representation for spousal support matters in Chester County and vicinity. My office is conveniently located in Exton at 600 Eagleview Boulevard, just off I-76 at the Downingtown Interchange. To schedule an appointment, call 484-899-9000 or contact my office online.