Alimony, Spousal Support and the Entitlement Defense

In divorce proceedings, one spouse often seeks to receive alimony or spousal support from the other. What is the difference? Alimony can be provided in a final divorce decree to the spouse with lower income and fewer assets. In contrast, spousal support can be ordered by the Court after a divorce complaint has been filed and while the divorce is pending. The most obvious difference is that alimony may be a long-term or permanent, post-divorce payment. Spousal support is temporary, while a divorce is ongoing.

In more-or-less the same temporary situation as spousal support, after the married couple has separated and divorce proceedings have begun, the spouse can ask the Court to order alimony pendente lite, or “APL.”. Like spousal support, the individual in a more difficult financial position wants to maintain the same standard of living as the couple achieved during the marriage. Spousal support and APL may not be received at the same time.

When requesting spousal support, the husband or wife with lower income and earning capacity needs to demonstrate that they deserve spousal support simply based on the financial circumstances. This fact is usually evident from the employment information such pay statements and tax returns. When contesting the request for support, there is a defense known as “entitlement.” If it can be shown that the expected recipient has conducted himself or herself in a way that would constitute grounds for a fault-based divorce, they may not be entitled to spousal support.

The majority of divorce decrees are issued on ‘no-fault’ grounds, when the relationship has broken down to the point that the parties should not remain a couple based on their differences. Divorces can also occur on the fault-based allegation that misconduct by one party caused the marriage to end. If it is the fault of one party that the divorce is being sought, that party may not be entitled to spousal support. Fault-based grounds for divorce include adultery, desertion, and cruelty. For all of the grounds for divorce, see 23 Pa.C.S. 3301 The spouse who is innocent may be able to successfully argue that the individual who caused the marriage to end should not be entitled to spousal support. The entitlement defense does not apply to child support.

To learn more about alimony and spousal support and related defenses, contact an experienced family law attorney at the Mazza Law Group, P.C.

Alimony, Spousal Support and the Entitlement Defense was last modified: April 19th, 2018 by Judith Homan