How to get Spousal Support before Divorce
Divorce can be very trying financially, especially in a marriage where the spouses have unequal earning power.
This complicates the divorce process further. This is because the less well-off spouse would have to take care of his/her livelihood before or during divorce proceedings.
Due to this, Pennsylvania law lets the less well off spouse file for spousal support.
However, there are guidelines that regulate how the court grants this. This is what we would be examining.
Alimony, spousal support and alimony pendente lite
There are three types of support for lower income partners. These are alimony, spousal support and alimony pedente lite. The purpose of these is to ensure that the less well off partner can sustain his/herself before, during, and after the divorce proceedings.
Because these terms all refer to payments that are made by the well-off spouse, they are often used interchangeably. However, they are very different from one another and refer to entirely different things.
Alimony refers to those payments ordered by a court to be paid to a lower income spouse so they can cope with living expenses after divorce proceedings have been finalized.
The payments are meant to provide financial relief while the spouse looks into gainful employment or the training that they would need to obtain a position where they can pay bills and maintain a good standard of living.
Spousal support is usually requested by the lower income spouse before the divorce is initiated. It is typically requested right from the period of separation. This means that you can request spousal support before filing the divorce.
The court can however deny these payments if the party requesting them has provided grounds for divorce such as adultery. This denial is called an “entitlement defence”. The defence is basically that the party is not entitled to spousal support because they are primarily to blame for the failure of the marriage.
Alimony pendente lite
This payment is awarded only after a divorce has been initiated. It is usually awarded so the receiving spouse can maintain themselves during the period that the case will run for.
There is no entitlement defence here. So you can request alimony pendente lite even if you have provided grounds for the divorce.
Spouses may file for spousal support or alimony pendente lite
If you are in a position where you are the less well-off party, you may file for spousal support or alimony pendente lite from the court so long as you have not provided any grounds for the dissolution of the marriage and even then, if you’re filing for only alimony pendente lite.
The court would be particularly receptive to your motion if you had to make some sacrifice to advance the career of your spouse, such as being a stay-at-home parent or leave your work or education.
The support you obtain here can be child support, spousal support or both. In order to ensure you have a strong motion, it’s best to complete a financial accounting document that goes along with your paperwork. this document is called a Case Information Statement.
The document provides your financial situation, including your household expenses, expenses for your children, debt obligations and assets. You will also need to attach other documentation such as your income tax returns.
Guidelines for awarding spousal support
In Pennsylvania, there’s a set formula for calculating spousal support and alimony pendente lite payments. The formula is designed to balance the needs of both spouses so that the paying spouse is not overwhelmed.
Usually, if the couple has dependent kids, the amount to be paid could be up to 30% of the difference between the income of the less well-off spouse and the paying spouse’s income after deducting any alimony payments to former spouses and child support payments from other marriages.
If there are no children, the less well-off spouse may receive up to 40% of the difference between their own income and the paying spouse’s income. The receiving spouse will be responsible for paying taxes on the payments received.
Factors that the court will consider
When the judge has to consider whether or not a spouse qualifies for payments from the other spouse, certain factors will be taken into consideration. The individual factors and the quality of the marriage can help the court decide if the spouse is eligible for spousal support or alimony.
The factors that will be considered include the following:
- The income of both spouses
- Child support and alimony payments from previous marriages
- Child support from this marriage
- The financial needs of each spouse to cover bills and maintain a certain standard of living
- Tax considerations (The receiving spouse will count the payments as taxable income, while the paying spouse considers them to be tax-deductible.)
- Employment prospects for both spouses
- Length of the marriage (There is no minimum length to qualify for alimony, but longer marriages are more likely to qualify.)
- Other circumstances, such as adultery or abuse
Duration of spousal support
There’s generally no fixed duration for how long spousal support or alimony pendente lite will last. The payments may have a set date upon which they will lapse or they may be hinged upon the happening of an event.
Generally, spousal support is only expected to last the duration of separation, before the divorce complaint is filed. Once the divorce complaint is filed, the less well-off spouse can file for alimony pendente lite and once it is granted, spousal support ceases.
This is because a spouse may only receive one of these payments at any point in time. Alimony pendente lite will also only last till the end of the divorce proceedings. If alimony is awarded, the pendente lite payments will also automatically end, giving way for alimony payments.
Let a qualified divorce lawyer help you
It can be very easy to get in over your head with all the requirement needed for filing and establishing a motion seeking for spousal support. With competent legal counsel though, you’ll have the best support you can get.