Alimony, Alimony Pendent Lite (“APL) and spousal support are words uttered when the topic of divorce is broached.  All three have the same purpose – to support the dependent spouse.  Support is the care, maintenance and financial assistance of one spouse to another.  “Married individuals are required to support each other according to their respective abilities and to provide support as provided by law[1].”  That duty continues after the couple separates.

Spousal Support

The purpose of spousal support is to provide the dependent spouse with a reasonable living allowance.  The dependent spouse is permitted to file a complaint for spousal support through Domestic Relations, even if neither party filed a divorce complaint.  How much will the dependent spouse receive?  The formula is 33% of the obligor’s net monthly income less 40% of the dependent spouses net monthly income[2].  Numerous factors such as proving health insurance, paying the mortgage on the marital home and the length of the marriage are considerations for a deviation.

If the depend spouse commits conduct that constitutes grounds for a fault divorce, the dependent spouse is not entitled to receive spousal support.  This is commonly known as the entitlement defense.  Grounds for a fault divorce include willful and malicious desertion without reasonable cause for one year or longer, adultery, cure and barbarous treatment, knowingly entering into a bigamous marriage, sentenced to imprisonment for two year or more, and other indignities rendering conditions intolerable and life burdensome[3].  Spousal support will terminate upon the entry of a divorce decree.

Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite is commonly referred to as APL.  Just like spousal support, the dependent spouse files a complaint for APL with domestic relations, the method to calculate APL is the same as spousal support, and it terminates upon the entry of a divorce decree.  The purpose of APL is to enable the dependent spouse to maintain or defend a divorce litigation and not just to provide support.  Unlike spousal support the payor cannot raise an entitlement defense.  Committing conduct that constitutes grounds is not an absolute ban on receive support.  A complaint for APL cannot be filed until there is a pending divorce action.


Alimony is a type of support after a divorce decree has been entered.  A claim for alimony cannot be raised after the divorce decree has been entered.  Unlike spousal support and APL, alimony is not decided on guidelines and income.  There are 17 factors that are considered to determine whether or not alimony is necessary, the amount of alimony if necessary, and the duration and manner of payment.

All family law matters are factually unique and there are several variables calculating support.  It is always best to consult with an attorney.


[1] 23Pa.C.S. 4321(1)

[2] The percentage changes if there are minor children

[3] 23 Pa.C.S. 3301(a)

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