During the marriage, but after separation, payment made to the financially dependent spouse for his/her support is either spousal support or alimony pendente lite (APL). After a divorce is granted, payment to the spouse is alimony. As a divorce lawyer in Chester County, Kim Denise Morton helps clients with their domestic matters and offers divorce help on how to proceed in alimony cases.
Alimony is different from spousal support in several ways. First, unlike spousal support where a financially dependent spouse is presumed to be entitled to support, a dependent spouse has the burden to demonstrate his/her need for alimony. Unfortunately, there are no “guidelines” for alimony as with child support.
There are many factors taken into consideration when determining a party’s need for alimony. They include elements such as length of marriage, each party’s earnings, ages, and health of each party. These factors are not necessarily weighed equally. Fault, such as adultery, may be considered as one of the factors in alimony. However, it is only one of the many factors, and is usually not given much “weight.”
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding alimony, a Special Master will be appointed to hear this issue. Similar to the support Hearing Officers, Special Masters are attorneys appointed by the court to hear divorce issues such as alimony, equitable distribution, etc. The Master will conduct a preliminary conference and/or settlement conference prior to any hearing in an effort to determine whether any of the issues can be settled without a hearing.
If the Master determines that an agreement cannot be reached, a hearing is held. After the hearing, the Special Master will file a report including findings and recommendations, Unless an appeal is taken, these findings will become a court order.
An appeal taken from the recommendation of the Special Master is similar to that taken from a Hearing Officer. A judge will only determine if the Master has made an error in the law. The judge will not re-hear the case.