#Law Reform
Pennsylvania General Assembly, and State Representative Frank Dermody
United States of America

Victims of domestic violence who seek divorce, are at times ordered to pay their abusive spouse temporary alimony in the form of Alimony Pendente Lite (APL).

This occurs when the victim of the abuse was the breadwinner of the family and has filed for a divorce, which is pending litigation. Under Pennsylvania law, the abusive spouse does not qualify for spousal support or regular alimony (after divorce), but with APL, they are entitled to a financially level playing field in the divorce process. Under these laws, there are guidelines for the court to take into consideration, but there is nothing in place to prevent them from ordering APL paid to the abusive spouse from the victim (Schwoyer, Personal Communication, 2014). Marital misconduct does not qualify as a defense against APL.

This is a growing problem as more and more women become the family breadwinners, and more men find themselves as victims of domestic violence (Carroll, 1997). However rare, in order to correct this issue and restore justice, the Pennsylvania law should be amended to exempt victims of domestic violence with evidence thereof, from paying APL to their abusive spouse.

A prime example of this injustice as told on ABC’s Nightline News in 2012, with a story of a woman who had been sexually assaulted by her husband and who was later ordered to pay him APL while he was awaiting trial for the crime. In that case, the Judge had explained it would seem sexist otherwise, and in consideration of the abuse she endured, he lowered the payment amount, which she calls a “rape discount” (Chang, 2012). Another example is of a local young woman (who wishes to remain anonymous), just completing her master’s degree, recently married her abusive husband, who in a few short months began to become violent and threatening. Abused mentally and physically, with proof from police reports and a protection order against him, once she filed for divorce, he was granted APL, because she worked and made a living, and he was unemployed (Anonymous, Personal Communication, 2014).

Last year, State Representative Schlossberg introduced House Bill 1560 to the General Assembly, which proposed amendments to Pennsylvania’s divorce laws to protect victims of domestic violence in preventing the course of abuse from continuing through the divorce process. His amendment included an exemption for victims, preventing further subjection to the abuse by attending the required counseling session, as well as granting victims a divorce in a 90-day period, as though it were mutually consented, when there is evidence or conviction of such abuse (Schlossberg, 2013).

This year, let’s stand up for the injustice of victims who are ordered to pay, not their spouse, but their offenders. Please sign the petition below in order to have your voice heard and attention brought to matter, and to relieve these victims from injustice, and instead give them support.


Carroll, D. (1997). It Cuts Both Ways. Black Elegance, (101), 56. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.lib.kaplan.edu/login.aspx?direct=tru&db=f5h&AN=9704170129&site=ehost-live

Chang, J. (2012). Paying his debt. Nightline (ABC). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.lib.kaplan.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bwh&AN=74079099&site=eds-live

Schlossberg, M. (2013, May 28). Memorandum: Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence in Divorce. Retrieved from http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20130&cosponId=12859

We, the undersigned, call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to amend the law regarding alimony pendente lite, to include an exemption to the law for victims of domestic violence, who have evidence thereof, from being ordered to pay their abusive spouse and transgressor, temporary alimony.

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The Justice and Peace for Victims of Domestic Violence petition to Pennsylvania General Assembly, and State Representative Frank Dermody was written by Emily A Linn and is in the category Law Reform at GoPetition.