Spousal Support vs. Alimony Pendente Lite vs. Alimony in Pennsylvania

May 9, 2023 | By Amanda C. Frett

In Pennsylvania, a financially dependent party may receive spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and/or alimony from their current or former spouse. While these terms are often conflated, the awards each have a unique purpose and distinct timing in the separation and divorce process. 

1. Spousal Support:

Generally, the purpose of spousal support is to assure the dependent spouse a reasonable living allowance. This award focuses on the monthly needs and expenses of the party, for example mortgage, utilities, food, clothing, and vehicle costs. The duty to provide spousal support arises out of the marital relationship and terminates when the marriage ends. Thus, spousal support will likely end either a) upon the death of the payor or recipient, or b) upon the entry of a divorce decree in a divorce action. If no divorce action is pending, spousal support is the only type of support that may be requested.

2. Alimony Pendente Lite:

Often referred to by its acronym, alimony pendente lite or APL, is defined as “an order of temporary support granted to a spouse during the pendency of a divorce or annulment proceeding.” The purpose of this award is based upon the need of the financially dependent spouse to have relatively equal resources to maintain or defend the divorce action when the other side possesses the greater income or assets. This award is specifically tied to a pending divorce action. Additionally, the Court may consider the non-requesting party’s ability to pay when determining whether to order APL payments. If a divorce action is pending, then spousal support or APL may be requested.

3. Alimony:

Per Pennsylvania law, an award of alimony is given to “effectuate economic justice between the parties.” Alimony is ordered to a spouse or former spouse in conjunction with a decree granting divorce or annulment. Therefore, alimony is the form of support a party receives after the parties have been divorced. The amount of alimony a dependent party may be awarded is based upon the payee’s reasonable needs in accordance with the lifestyle and standard of living by the parties established during the marriage, as well as the payor’s ability to pay.

Support cases require a nuanced analysis of the economic landscape and specific circumstances of the parties. Obermayer family law attorneys are experienced in handling support matters and can help you understand your financial options during a separation or divorce. For more information about the future of your family, set up a consultation with an Obermayer attorney today. 

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

About the Authors

Amanda C. Frett


Amanda concentrates her practice in all aspects of family law including divorce, adoption, child and spousal support, custody, separation and domestic abuse in the greater Doylestown, PA area. Amanda advises people during...

Read More by Author