Pennsylvania Spousal Support 101

May 11, 2015 / 12:00 am

When a marriage ends, financial complications can ensue. In addition to dividing property acquired during the marriage, the courts must make sure provisions are made for any children the couple has, as well as if financial spousal support should be paid. In Pennsylvania, there are mandatory guidelines the courts must use to determine spousal support, though exceptions may be made for unusual cases.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support exists to provide financial support during and after a divorce, to help ensure that neither party is unfairly affected by the divorce. This is especially important for couples with a wide income disparity, such as a single-income family, to ensure that the receiving spouse has time to secure adequate income.

Spousal support in PA is divided into three distinct categories:

» Spousal support: In Pennsylvania, the term “spousal support” applies during the time a couple is separated, but has not yet filed for divorce. It can be contested in cases of adultery, abandonment, or abuse.

» Alimony pendente lite (APL): This type of support is calculated in the same way as spousal support, but takes effect during the time between when the motion for divorce is filed and when the divorce proceedings conclude. It is difficult to contest this support, even if the courts denied an order for spousal support prior to the divorce action beginning.

» Alimony: Alimony is paid after the divorce action is complete. It is not subject to the mandatory guidelines that spousal support and APL are, but rather is determined by the courts based on a number of considerations. Alimony can be paid for a set term, or until certain conditions are met.

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

Spousal support in PA is calculated according to a specific formula. The same calculator is used to determine APL. The individual income of each spouse is considered within the formula, as well as any child support that is being paid.

The court will determine the length of time the order is in effect. If there are unusual circumstances, exceptions to the mandatory guidelines can be made.

To determine spousal support and APL payments, the net income of each spouse, including bonuses and other payments, is determined. The difference between the two is calculated, and this is used as the basis for spousal support.

If there are no minor children, spousal support and APL are awarded at 40 percent of this amount. If there are children and child support is being paid, the child support payment is subtracted from the difference in incomes, and spousal support is awarded as 30 percent of that number.


As part of the divorce proceedings, the court may determine that alimony payments should be made. The length of the marriage, incomes, and earning potential will all be considered. The needs of each spouse and the financial contributions each made to the marriage will be examined. The goal is to ensure that each spouse will have enough income to meet their financial obligations, and that the receiving spouse has adequate time to secure enough income to be self-supporting.

Alimony payments may have a set end date, or continue indefinitely. If the receiving party remarries or enters into a shared living arrangement, or either party dies, alimony payments will end.


Spousal support in Pennsylvania follows a mandated procedure, simplifying what can be a complicated calculation. From the time of separation until the divorce is complete, spousal support and APL payments can be made to ease the transition. Once the divorce is complete, the court will determine the alimony payments based on the individual circumstances of the divorcing couple.