Understanding Legal Lingo: Support, Alimony, And APL

In Pennsylvania, there are three main types of support that a spouse can ask for: spousal support, alimony, or alimony pendente lite (APL). It can be confusing to know which type to ask for when, and which type a person is entitled to. It may be helpful to think of each of these forms of support as stops along a timeline through a separation and divorce. In other words, each type of support can be received at a different point in the divorce process, and one type of support cannot overlap with another.

Spousal support is the first stop in the timeline of separation. A spouse can receive this type of support after separation has occurred, but before a divorce complaint is filed. Typically, this type of support is calculated based on income. However, it is important to note that there is a fault-based consideration to this type of support. If one spouse engages in martial misconduct, he or she may not be entitled to receive spousal support.

Alimony pendent elite, or APL, is the next stop on the divorce timeline. This type of support runs from the time a divorce complaint is filed up until the court enters a final divorce decree. This type of support is similar to spousal support, but with one major difference, there is no consideration given for fault. This type of support is meant to help each spouse financially when proceeding through the divorce. This includes allowing the spouses to each have the funds to hire an attorney to handle the divorce proceedings.

Alimony is the final stop on the timeline. Alimony is awarded only after a final divorce decree has been entered. There are many factors, including misconduct that a court will consider when awarding alimony. Unlike the other two forms of support, alimony awards have no fixed end date, as there is nothing left to be done with the divorce. However, the court can specify the amount of time an alimony award will run, and this amount of time can be different in a case-by-case basis.

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