Many individuals who are going through a divorce are often confused by the many terms used to define payments made from one party to another for the care of the spouse or children. Three common terms used in family court include alimony, child support, and spousal support.
Alimony and spousal support are necessarily the same. Alimony, Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) and spousal support are terms indicating a payment made from one spouse to the other in order to help them get through the divorce during times when they are transitioning their lifestyle due to the situation or sometimes after the divorce in certain cases. For example, a woman who is a stay-at-home mom throughout the duration of her marriage is entitled to APL or spousal support from her husband during the divorce action to help her as she transitions into the work force. In addition, after the divorce, depending on the available property, alimony may be awarded. This money can be used to cover bills while job searching or to help pay for college classes to finish a college degree and obtain a better-paying job to help support herself and her children. Another instance may be when women give up high-paying careers to tend to their husband during the marriage. These women are entitled to APL/spousal support during the pendency of the divorce. This also applies to a man if the roles are reversed or the woman earns more than the man.
Child support, on the other hand, is a payment made to the other party to help care for one or more children. Child support is often paid to the party with primary physical custody of the children or the party who has less income. The other parent pays this money to the spouse with the lesser income to help in supporting the child in the same way this money would be used during a marriage. The receiving party does not have to show proof of how the child support money is being spent because it is commonly used to help with the cost of living, including rent/mortgage, utility bills, food, and clothing. This amount of money is determined differently by each state and in PA it is determined by a scheduled as ordered by the Supreme Court. Child support can be raised or lowered when certain circumstances arise, such as the loss of a job or a large cut in pay for one or both parties involved.