Frequently asked questions regarding alimony, spousal support, and child support…

How is support calculated in Pennsylvania?

Both child support and spousal support in PA will be calculated according to state guidelines, which outline formulas for the court to use in determining the amount of support. The action is started by filing a support complaint through the Domestic Relations Section, and then the parties will attend a support conference, where a conference officer will run the support guidelines. Even parties with straightforward incomes can benefit from having an attorney present at the conference level to ensure they receive the most favorable recommendation.

What if we share custody? Can I still receive child support?

It depends. Pennsylvania's support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model, and supports the concept that children of separated parents should receive the same amount of support they would if their parents were together. The numbers are calculated based on the parties' respective net incomes, taking into consideration any deviations allowed under the guidelines. Consideration of how much time each parent has with the children, specifically overnight time, will also be factored into the guideline calculation.

Am I entitled to alimony?

Pennsylvania's Divorce Code specifies 17 different factors the court must consider when deciding whether a spouse is entitled to alimony, in what amount, and for how long. Because your circumstances and the specific facts of your case will determine your entitlement, you should consult an attorney regarding your right. If you fail to make a claim for alimony before your Divorce Decree is given, you may be barred from the right to make a claim forever.

My spouse earned most of the household income. Can I get support during the divorce process?

Alimony pendente lite, like spousal support, is a form of temporary support available through a Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Section. Its goal is to keep spouses on an even playing field while a divorce action is pending, so that if one spouse made the majority of the income during the marriage, and that income is suddenly taken away, the other spouse can continue to meet their needs, afford an attorney, and the like. The formula for the amount of this support is outlined in the state guidelines, and will be calculated using net incomes, taking into consideration any child support Order in place, and any allowable deviations.

What is the difference between spousal support and alimony pendente lite?

Before a divorce complaint is filed, and provided the parties are living separately, support for the spouse who earns less is called spousal support and may be subject to what is known as an entitlement defense. That is, if fault grounds are present, the party being asked to pay spousal support may raise the issue of fault grounds, which may bar the receiving spouse from being awarded spousal support. Once a divorce complaint is filed, however, the support is calculated the same way as spousal support but is known as alimony pendente lite, or APL, and the entitlement defense is no longer available to the payor spouse. Both kinds of support are calculated using the parties' monthly net incomes according to state guidelines.

How long will I be entitled to support?

In Pennsylvania, a child support obligation will continue until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. Spousal support or alimony has no set timeline, the length of the award depends on the circumstances of the case and and analysis of the factors a court must consider in fashioning the award. The length of the parties' marriage will generally dictate the length of the alimony award, although there are exceptions. With an issue as dependent on individual circumstances as this, it is best to consult counsel about what you can expect.

How does the custody arrangement affect child support?

The parent who has primary physical custody is entitled to child support from the other parent. Depending on the income of the parties, support may also be owed when the parents have shared physical custody. Even if a parent does not see the child, unless their rights have been legally terminated (keep in mind this must be done by a court and only in specific circumstances, it is not as simple as saying "I give up my rights") they still have a duty of support. I will gladly run the numbers for you during our meeting to determine what a support obligation looks like for your particular case.

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