Maybe you are considering asking your spouse for a divorce, or perhaps you've already been served with a divorce complaint. Regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in a divorce proceeding, you are about to enter a world that is foreign to most.

So as you navigate what can be a very stressful and emotional time, here are several basic legal terms regarding family law that you should know.

Alimony - a payment of financial support made from one spouse to another after a divorce has been finalized. In Pennsylvania, the amount of alimony typically is negotiated during the divorce process and is calculated based on many factors, from the relative earning capacity of both parties to the length of the marriage.

Custody - the legal arrangements regarding the raising of children from the marriage. There are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to having power to make decisions about how a child should be raised. Physical custody relates to where a child lives when.

Discovery - under civil law, a pre-trial procedure by which parties request and share information with the opposing party.

Date of Separation - this is an extremely important factor in family law. The date of separation is the date on which the two parties became legally separate. Establishing the date of separation affects everything from the division of financial assets to the duration of alimony awards.

Equitable Distribution - most states, including Pennsylvania, use "equitable distribution" guidelines to divide marital assets and debt. Equitable, though, means "fair," not necessarily "equal."

Marital Property - refers to the assets - including, yes, real estate, but also businesses, retirement accounts, bank and investment accounts, and cars and other tangible assets - acquired during a marriage which are therefore subject to equitable distribution.

Spousal Support - a payment of financial support made from one spouse to another after they separate but before a divorce is finalized. Pennsylvania divorce law specifies the guidelines which the court must follow in calculating the amount of support due.

This brief list explains some of the most common, and many of the most important, legal terms that a person going through a divorce will encounter. If you are facing a family law matter in Pennsylvania, the Bucks County divorce attorneys at Williams Family Law stand ready to assist. Call us at 215-340-2207.