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Divorce Terminology

Return to List Affidavit A sworn statement in writing.

Return to List Alimony The payment of support (not child support) from one spouse to another so that the spouse receiving the payment can maintain the lifestyle that they were accustomed to during the marriage. Also referred to spousal support or maintenance.

Return to List Annulment A judgment by a court that retroactively invalidates a marriage. An annulment means that the individuals were never united in marriage as husband and wife, however the children born during the annulled marriage are considered legitimate.

Return to List Arrearages An accumulation of the past support payments that were not paid as required under court order. It can refer to child support or spousal support.

Return to List Child Support The amount of money that the non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent to help pay for the every day needs of the child(ren) such as housing, food and clothing.

Return to List Child Support Guidelines Child support guidelines which vary by state, are guiding principles used to calculate the amount of support the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent. Typically use of the guidelines is mandatory unless the court decides that their use would be unjust to either party.

Return to List Common Law Marriage A judicially-recognized marriage in some states, usually based on cohabitation.

Return to List Community Property A rule of property division which divides equally all property acquired during the term of the marriage, without regard to whose name it is held. Inheritances and gifts are excluded in some jurisdictions.

Return to List Complaint The formal document filed with the Court which states that the plaintiff wants a divorce and why.

Return to List Contested Divorce The party sued opposes divorce the because either he or she denies the asserted grounds or they does not agree to the terms of the divorce i.e. property, child custody, child support, alimony, assumption of marital debts etc.

Return to List Court Order A court order is a legal document issued by a court ordering someone to perform a specific act or prohibits them from performing an act Anyone who knowingly violates a court order can be held in contempt of court.

Return to List Custodial Parent The parent with whom the child(ren) live the majority of the time.

Return to List Custody The legal right and responsibility awarded by the court for the care of a child. See Joint Custody and Sole Custody

Return to List Defendant The person (either husband or wife) who is being sued for divorce.

Return to List Deposition A deposition is the out-of-court oral testimony under oath of a witness that is put in writing for later use in court. It is also used for discovery purposes

Return to List Emancipation Emancipation as it relates to divorce is a legal method by which a parent is freed from any and all responsibility toward the child. It generally refers to financial responsibility. Emancipation can occur when the child marries, is inducted into military service, by court order based upon the child's best interest or by when the child reaches an appropriate age (which varies by state).

Return to List Equitable Distribution The division of property rights and debts between spouses during divorce. It can be done via a negotiated agreement or judicial decree.

Return to List Grounds Grounds for divorce are the reasons specified by the law of each state that are the basis for granting the divorce. No grounds are required for a "no fault" divorce.

Return to List Interrogatory Written questions submitted by one party of the divorce to the other party. Answers must be given in writing and under oath.

Return to List Joint Custody When the children live with the one parent (residential custodian) and visit with the other (non-residential) parent. Both parents have an equal say in major decisions affecting the children.

Return to List Maintenance See Alimony

Return to List Marital Assets Property that is acquired during the course of the marriage regardless of who owns or has title to it. It includes but is not limited to the following: house(s), other real estate, cash, jewelry, home furnishings, stocks, bonds, motor vehicles, pensions, profit sharing plans and insurance.

Return to List Mediation Divorce mediation is an alternative to litigation. A neutral third party facilitates the creation of a divorce agreement tailored to and agreed upon by the divorcing couple. A divorce mediator is not required to be an attorney

Return to List Motion A motion is a written request asking the court to grant a temporary ruling. Either party to the divorce can file a motion. During the motion hearing the judge will listen to arguments from both sides for or against the motion. The most frequent use of motions during divorce are for matters relating to child support, alimony and custody.

Return to List Non-Custodial Parent The non-custodial parent is the parent who does not have physical custody of their, i.e. their children do not live with them the majority of the time. That being said it is possible for a non-custodial parent to have legal custody of their children.

Return to List Pendente Lite Support A temporary order of the Court which provides support until the divorce is finalized.

Return to List Physical Custody Physical custody indicates the parent with whom the child lives the greater majority of time.

Return to List Plaintiff The person who files the divorce complaint and sues the person for divorce.

Return to List Pro Se To represent yourself in court proceedings without an attorney.

Return to List QDRO Qualified Domestic Relations Order. A ruling by the court stating what portion of one spouse's pension is to be awarded to the other spouse.

Return to List Quid Pro Quo The giving of one valuable thing for another. (From the Latin meaning "what for what")

Return to List Restraining Order A court order prohibiting a party from certain activities including harassment or liquidating assets. Restraining orders often are issued to protect marital assets and to protect against domestic violence. In many states, violating a "domestic restraining order" is a criminal offense.

Return to List Retainer A fee paid in advance for services to be rendered by a divorce professional.

Return to List Sole Custody Sole custody is both legal and physical custody by one parent. It is not common practice any more to give one parent sole custody unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Return to List Spousal Support The payment of support (not child support) from one spouse to another so that the spouse receiving the payment can maintain the lifestyle that they were accustomed to during the marriage. Also referred to alimony or maintenance.

Return to List Subpoena A court order to attend a legal proceeding such as a trial or deposition. If documents are also requested, the subpoena is called a subpoena duces tecum, Latin for "bring with you." Sometimes a subpoena duces tecum states that you must produce certain documents by a specific date without having to appear.

Return to List Visitation The right of the non custodial parent to see the children.

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