Defenses To PA Spousal Support

Spousal support in Pennsylvania is the amount paid to a dependent spouse to assure that person has a reasonable living allowance or money to provide for living expenses. In Pennsylvania, spousal support is the title for support paid before a divorce complaint is filed. There are, however, “entitlement defenses” to spousal support – meaning that the party who would otherwise be ordered to pay spousal support will not have to pay if one of these defenses applies.

1) Lack of Entitlement due to a Defective Marriage: If the parties’ ceremonial marriage is not effective for any number of reasons, a dependent spouse in this situation is not entitled to spousal support. Where this arises most frequently is with bigamy, or when a person believes that their previous marriage has ended legally and they are able to enter into another legal union with a different person. In this situation, spousal support is not appropriate because the marriage itself is considered “defective.”

2) Marital Misconduct: A spouse can forfeit the right to receive PA spousal support if that spouse has engaged in an extramarital affair during the parties’ marriage. This must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. It is important to note, however, that the spouse’s post-separation behavior with respect to affairs is not relevant. Yet, it can become relevant if it sheds light on an affair that existed while the parties were actually married.

3) Condonation: If a spouse “condones” or accepts their spouse’s marital misconduct, then the duty to pay spousal support may be restored. Condonation can take many different forms, but it generally requires that a spouse had knowledge of their spouse’s misconduct and they “condoned” the behavior in some way.

4) Indignities: Engaging in “indignities” is also a defense to spousal support. Indignities are defined in PA as a course of conduct or continued treatment that renders the condition of the innocent party intolerable and his or her life burdensome. It is further defined by PA case law as a course of conduct as humiliating, degrading, and inconsistent with the position and relation as a spouse.

5) Lack of Need: A Pennsylvania court does not have the power to issue a support order if the parties are living in the same household together unless it can be shown that the basic necessities of life are not being provided.

6) Voluntary withdrawal from the marital residence without adequate cause: A voluntary withdrawal from the marital residence without adequate legal cause is a bar to spousal support. A spouse who has left the marital residence has the legal burden to establish that their spouse’s conduct justified them leaving the marital residence.

Speak to our experienced Pittsburgh Spousal Support Attorneys if you have any questions about this information or your family law case.

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