Legal Lingo for your Support Matter

July 8, 2024 | By Hayley N. Purcell Sinkler

As lawyers, we essentially learn how to speak a completely different language that sounds like gibberish to the average person. While we always make an effort to keep you informed and explain all aspects of your case, there are some words or phrases you may hear that are not immediately familiar. Below please find a list that may help you follow along as we work through your support matter:

  • Alimony – Support payments to a dependent spouse following the entry of a final decree in divorce when the spouse cannot meet their reasonable needs.
  • Alimony Factors – Under Pennsylvania law, there are 16 case-specific factors that a court needs to consider in relation to an alimony award. These factors include elements such as the length of the marriage, the earnings or earning capacity of each party, the separate assets of each party, etc.
  • Alimony Pendente Lite – Temporary support payments to a dependent spouse during the duration of the divorce matter.
  • Arrears – money due in relation to a support matter that has not yet been paid.
  • Child Support – a parent’s court-ordered monetary support that is intended to be used to help with the costs of raising a child. Child support terminates upon the child’s 18th birthday or graduation from high school, whichever is later.
  • Cohabitation – two persons living together in a romantic relationship. Cohabitation is often referenced as a bar to alimony.
  • Deviation – Pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.16-5 a finder of fact may deviate from a standard support calculation either upwards or downwards. They take into consideration factors such as unusual needs or obligations of the parties, relative assets and liabilities, and standard of living.
  • Domestic Relations Office – The office tasked with handling support matters.
  • Earning Capacity – income assigned to a party where a court believes an individual is not earning their full potential. Courts will typically take parties’ age, work experience, earnings history, and childcare obligations into consideration.
  • Mortgage Deviation – The spouse residing the marital residence may request a change in their monthly support award or payment to help pay the mortgage.
  • Net Income Available for Support (“NIAS”) – value used to determine a party’s income for support calculations. This takes into account income available from all sources including wages, interest and dividends, rental income, retirement income, perquisites, etc. after taxes.
  • PACSES – stands for Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System. This program is used by all 67 counties in Pennsylvania for the collection and enforcement of child support obligations.
  • Spousal Support – Support payments to a dependent spouse prior to the commencement of a divorce action.
  • Unreimbursed Medical Expenses – out-of-pocket expenses for medical, dental, optical, and orthodontia services provided for in a support order. A dependent spouse typically must cover the first $250 in out-of-pocket expenses prior to seeking a contribution from the obligor spouse. Therapy or psychological services are typically not considered unreimbursed medical expenses.
  • Wage Garnishment – where an employer withholds a portion of employees’ wages in order to pay a support obligation.
  • Work-Related Childcare – childcare that is necessary for one or both parents to maintain gainful employment. Such expenses may be allocated between the parties in addition to a standard support obligation.

For further guidance or information on this topic, please set up a consultation with a member of our Family Law team.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

About the Authors

Hayley N. Purcell Sinkler


Hayley is a Doylestown-based family law attorney, who handles all aspects of domestic relations matters, including divorce, custody and visitation, child support, property division, protection from abuse, as well as family law...

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