Spousal Support in Pittsburgh
Our Pittsburgh spousal support lawyers handle spousal support cases throughout Allegheny County and Western Pennsylvania. Our attorneys can assist with filing for spousal support or a modification of spousal support. We handle spousal support conferences and spousal support hearings for legal matters arising in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas. If you have questions about Pennsylvania spousal support law, we would be happy to speak to you.
Spousal support simply refers to money paid by the higher income party to the lower-income party. In Pennsylvania, there are several types of spousal support. The payments are each unique in nature and further differentiated by when the payments are made (i.e. before, during, or after divorce).
The first type of spousal support is available to a dependent spouse following separation and prior to the filing of a complaint in divorce.
Note: Infidelity by the dependent spouse may be the basis for an entitlement defense (they are not entitled to receive it) to spousal support and/or alimony.
Alimony Pendente Lite
Once a complaint in divorce has been filed, support received by the dependent spouse is called Alimony Pendente Lite or "APL," which essentially means alimony pending litigation. This is used to put the spouses on a relatively level playing field during the pendency of a divorce action. The interim support allows the dependent spouse to pay their bills and maintain some amount of parity in their standard of living while they adjust to the loss of the income and support of the primary wage earner.
When can I get Spousal Support or APL?
If either spouse vacates the marital residence, the lower-income spouse is often left in a very difficult situation and requires funds for living essentials. A dependent spouse can file for spousal support any time after the parties begin "living separate and apart" or by living in separate residences. The parties will need to reside in separate residences as of the date of the conference/hearing unless there has been no contribution to the household bills by the primary breadwinner. In such cases, support can be awarded even if the parties continue to reside under the same roof.
APL is available to the dependent spouse after a Divorce Complaint has been filed, and is essentially the same as spousal support. There is no entitlement defense to APL.
Support by Consent
On occasion, the parties are able to have their attorneys perform income calculations which include the relevant considerations (and a guideline analysis if child support is also involved) and can provide each client with the amount that they would pay or receive if the matter went to court. If there is no disagreement about the amount of support, the attorneys for each party can have an Order for Support entered via a new online process that currently replaces screening at any of the three local support offices.
What Happens at Court?
Most of the time a spousal support complaint will result in a support conference and/or support hearing. The parties will receive various paperwork from the court and will need to prepare appropriate documents for court.
Support Conference (Allegheny County)
In the past the matter began in a cubicle, but is now being handled over the phone with all parties on the call. The domestic relations officer still uses income and expense information from both parties and performs calculations to determine the amount of support owed or recieved. A support Order can be entered by consent at that stage and the matter is over. The conference level is usually reserved for up to an hour per matter.
If there is no agreement at the conference, the parties will have a support hearing scheduled.
NOTE: In Allegheny County, prior to January 4, 2022, the support conference and hearing were scheduled on the same day. Moving forward these matters will be handled separately. If the parties cannot agree at the conference level, they will be given a date for a future in-person Support Hearing before a Hearing Officer.
This change brings Allegheny County in line with the surrounding areas who have held conferences and hearings on different days. Regardless of the change, it remains imperative that you are fully prepared for scheduled court date whether it is for a conference or a hearing.
I thought I could handle it...
We often get calls from folks who have tried to go it alone only to have a bad result. Then they call after the hearing wanting us to try to fix the problem. A word to the wise, do not assume the other party will not have a lawyer just because you think they cannot afford it.
When dealing with such an important matter people get help from family and friends to maximize (or minimize) the amount of support.
Also, if we don't handle the hearing, we're not handling your exceptions, since you most likely did not create a useful record or enter the appropriate exhibits. When in doubt, play it safe.
Other times, quite honestly, if both parties are w-2 employees without any special issues, you very well may be able to adequately represent yourself. Ultimately, that is something only you can decide.
Support Hearing (Allegheny County)
The hearing procedure is testimony by summary when represented by counsel with time for each side to cross-examine the other. The hearing is typically limited to thirty minutes, but may extend longer depending on the circumstances. If the parties know in advance that they will require a hearing and there are several issues of contention or unusual facts, the matter should be designated as complex ahead of time to proceed to a complex hearing.
Business owners, workers who receive the majority of income in cash/tips, people with seasonal employment and high-income (more than $30,000/mo combined net income) cases are the most likely to require the extra time afforded by a complex hearing. Certainly, anytime experts are being used to calculate business income or additional fact witnesses are required, the matter should clearly be designated complex from the outset. Such cases will always require: a half-day, full day or multi-day hearing in addition to formal discovery (which is not permitted in regular support cases).
Filing for Support
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding support, either party may file a support complaint. Your attorney can prepare and file this for you, or you are able to file it on your own, which we often encourage since there is no cost to file for support. Filing may be done by in person at the main support office downtown or at either satellite office (East - Penn Hills or South Hills - Mt. Lebanon).
The forms are available online here and may be completed in advance if filing on your own to save time.
Where to File?
Previously the filings were handled as follows: In Allegheny County, a complaint for support was be filed in person at the Support Office on the Fifth Floor of the Manor Building (564 Forbes Avenue) during their regular business hours (8:30 am – 2:00 pm). You could also file Wednesday evenings from 4:30 – 7:00 pm at the Family Division located at 440 Ross Street. Filing was also available at either the Mt. Lebanon Satellite office at 250 Mt. Lebanon Blvd and the Penn Hills Satellite office located at 12000 Frankstown Avenue. The procedure has now moved online and can be accessed here: Filing for Support.
Following the entry of a divorce decree, spousal support is referred to as alimony. Alimony is a monetary award on a monthly or bi-weekly basis to a dependent spouse for a defined period of time, based on multiple factors including: the length of the party's marriage, the respective ability of each party to seek gainful employment, and whether the dependent spouse will require any training before being able to rehabilitate and re-enter the workforce, if previously not employed. Also, the ages and health of the parties will be considered.
Generally, a short marriage may result in little or no alimony, while a long marriage where the current earning capacity of each party is disproportionate, may be more likely to produce a longer and higher award. The three types of alimony are called: permanent alimony, equitable reimbursement and rehabilitative alimony.
How we can help with your case?
If you need to talk to a lawyer about how to obtain spousal support, the amount of interim spousal support you may receive or owe, or the factors considered in determining whether spousal support is awarded, we would be more than happy to speak to you.
We can also explain how spousal support or APL is calculated.
Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation
Contact us if you have any questions about spousal support, or to schedule a free consultation. We proudly serve clients in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Allegheny County throughout Western Pennsylvania.