Divorce: that word alone can be intimidating as it carries so much legal involvement with it. Before you know it, you’ll start meeting with your attorney, talking about court possibilities, figuring out child support, and all of your conversations will be flooded with legal jargon. This can be incredibly daunting, as you are about to make choices concerning your property, children, and lifestyle.
Hopefully, if you have an honest and trustworthy lawyer, they will be able to break terminology down for you and make sure that you completely understand what is happening. If they are keeping you in the dark, that is a problem. You have a right to understand the legalities behind divorce and family law key terms, which is why we’ve composed a quick glossary on some important terms that you may see during your divorce process.
ABSOLUTE DIVORCE: The final, legal ending of a marriage. Under an absolute divorce, both parties are able to remarry.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Measures to resolve marital issues without going to trial. These alternatives include things like mediation and arbitration.
AGREEMENT: A resolution of dispute through verbal or written consent.
ALIMONY: a payment of support provided by one spouse to the other.
ANNULMENT: A legal proceeding in which the marriage is declared void, as if a marriage never existed in the first place. This option is only available to very specific circumstances. APPEAL: When a losing party requests a higher court to review the previous legal actions.
Child support: When one spouse pays financial support to the other for a child’s basic needs, like food, shelter, education, and healthcare.
COLLUSION: An agreement that there has been false, untrue charges brought up by both parties to accomplish a goal in court. This illegal agreement may happen between a husband and a wife, for example, if they both agree to use adultery as a way to quicken the divorce process, when adultery never happened.
COMMON LAW MARRIAGE: A legal acknowledgement of two consenting adults who live together for a designated period of time (as determined by the state), after which they are considered to be common law m narried. Most states recognize common law marriage.
Court order: A written document issued by a court. It becomes effective when signed by a judge, and it may require action by one or both parties for things like paying support.
CUSTODIAL PARENT: the partner who has physical custody of the child or children.
CUSTODY-SOLE & JOINT: A legal arrangement that decides who the child will live with and how often the other parent is involved in terms of visitation, life decisions, or support. Parents can make custodial arragments according to what they see best for their child. Sometimes, this is determined by the court.
Default/default judgment: A court order or judgment entered without hearing one side, because that side failed to meet an obligation (like appearing at a hearing) in the allotted time.
DISCOVERY: The time period before trial in which information is gathered from both parties. Things like interrogatories, depositions, and documentation are collected during this time.
DISSOLUTION: The legal end of a marriage.
Equitable distribution: A legal decision to divide property equally between two parties. This is determined by health, education, employment, etc.
MAINTENANCE: One spouse’s payment to the other for financial support.
NON-MARITAL PROPERTY: property that belongs to only one spouse and won’t be included in any equitable distribution of property.
NOTICE: the formal legal process of informing one spouse about a legal action or proceeding involving that spouse.
PENDENTE LITE: Temporary arrangements for custody, child support, child visitation, alimony, and possession of the family home, until the final hearing.
PRO SE/PROPER PERSON: When you decide to represent yourself instead of getting an attorney.
QUALIFIED DOMESTIC RELATIONS ORDER (QDRO): A court order that gives a spouse’s retirement fund to the other spouse.
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT: The legal amount of time a spouse must live within a state or county before that spouse may file a divorce action in that state or county.
Set off: When one spouse’s debt is deducted from the debt of the other spouse.
Temporary/”pendente lite” motions: A request that the court provide a temporary relief period in the ongoing divorce case.
UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: When there are no issues between two spouses in regards to court decisions about children, money, or property.
VISITATION: The non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with the spouse’s child or children.
Of course, this is list does not have every divorce and family law term that exists, but we believe it is comprehensive enough to start building a foundation for knowledge. We know this is a difficult time, so for you to have an understanding of the legal jargon means that you will have one less thing to worry about. Legal terminology can be dense, but we are here to help.
If you are in need of a trustworthy divorce or family lawyer, contact Liberty Law Center today for lawyers who are on your side.