What Is The Difference Between Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) And Alimony?

Going through a divorce can be costly – both emotionally and financially.  For the financial part, alimony pendente lite (“APL”) is a way for a spouse to help pay attorney and court fees.  You can apply for APL by filing a petition with the court. The purpose of APL is to allow a person to be able to afford legal expenses and also maintain their livelihood that they enjoyed during their marriage until their case is settled.  The court looks at the financial situation of the parties and if there’s a significant financial disparity and the spouse has “reasonable” financial needs, the court will award APL. Essentially (as explained in various Pennsylvania court decisions) APL ensures that the parties involved are on an equal playing field when it comes to finances during litigation.  In addition, it allows the spouse to support him or herself after separation. The court will determine the amount of APL through a specific formula as described by Rule 1910.16-41.

How long does APL last for?

Pennsylvania courts have long established that APL will continue until the final divorce decree is issued.  This is important particularly because many might assume that APL would terminate upon the entry of the decree but this is not the case.  APL will continue if there are any appeals to the decree.  As rationalized by the court, this protects the spouse in case the appeals process is lengthy.  In a recent Bucks County court case, the husband attempted to challenge the wife’s efforts to obtain APL again after the husband appealed the proposed property settlement agreement2.  At some point, the wife’s appeal was terminated.  The case had been ongoing for 9 years with a substantial amount of petitions and motions by both parties.  The court ruled, because the property settlement agreement and final decree had not been resolved/issued yet, that the wife’s APL should be re-issued. However, in some cases, APL will be discontinued or reduced if the spouse’s (who is receiving the APL) financial situation changes significantly during the course of the divorce process.

So how does APL differ from alimony?

Generally, APL begins when a divorce complaint is entered and terminates after a final decree is issued by the court.  In other words, it only can be awarded to a spouse if there is ongoing litigation in the divorce. To contrast, alimony is post-divorce and will be incorporated into the final marital settlement agreement.  If a person is receiving APL, it will be converted into alimony once all matters regarding the divorce are resolved. 

If you have any questions about APL or alimony and want to find out more, please contact The THOMAS SMITH Firm, P.C. at info@thomassmithfirm.com.

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1 231 Pa. Code Rule 1910.16-4

2 Wiggins v. Wiggins, 2010 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 702