The common understanding of an alimony pendete lite (or “APL”) award is that it is a relatively strict economic analysis based on incomes. Due in large part to the prominent reference to “alimony” in this term, it is commonly assumed that APL is treated like alimony in the sense that it is taxable income to the recipient (true) and terminable based on co-habitation (false).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court highlighted this latter fact in a recent ruling in the Childress v. Bogosian case. In that case, the Wife was awarded APL though she was “partially” cohabitating with her boyfriend. The hearing master made a recommendation that Husband be awarded 55% of the marital estate and 60% of the real property that he acquired. The master also applied a retroactive 20% downward deviation in APL due to Wife’s cohabitation and terminated Wife’s APL award that year.
Wife filed exceptions to the Master’s decision and the trial court granted her exception related to the termination of the APL award, reinstating the award for an additional two years until the Decree was finally entered. Husband then appealed the case and that issue, among others, to the Superior Court.
The Superior Court’s perspective on this issue is that APL is designed to “maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, so that both parties have equal financial resources to pursue the divorce even though one party has the major assets.” Citing precedence, the Court also noted that “APL may not be denied on the basis that a spouse is cohabitating with another.”
In upholding the trial court’s decision to extend APL payments two years and not take into consider Wife’s cohabitation as grounds for terminating APL, but justifying the downward deviation. The court also recognized the element of husband’s direct impairment of wife’s finances by his willful failure to pay APL payments during the pendency of the divorce.
Unlike in an alimony award co-habitation by an APL recipient will not result in a termination of the support award, but one could expect the facts related to the contribution by the recipient’s paramour will be taken into consideration.