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Divorce and Family Law Glossary

Trying to decipher an acronym? Attempting to understand legal jargon? The Divorce and Family Law glossary gives you access to definitions for  the Divorce and Family Law legal terminology commonly used in documents  and court proceedings,   This Divorce and Family Law glossary will help you understand the legal  terms and phrases which are relevant to separation, guardianship, and other Divorce and Family Law areas of law.

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Divorce and Family Law Glossary

  • Accrual
    1 : the action or process of accruing [claim must be brought within two years of the date of ] 2 a : something that accrues ;esp : an amount of money that periodically accumulates for a specific ...
  • Adoption
    Legal process pursuant to state statute in which a child's legal rights and duties toward his natural parents are terminated and similar rights and duties toward his adoptive parents are substituted.
  • Alimony
    [Latin alimonia sustenance, from alere to nourish] 1 : an allowance made to one spouse by the other for support pending or after legal separation or divorce compare child support alimony in gross : ...
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (Adr)
    Methods of resolving legal disputes without going to trial, in a less adversarial manner, such as through arbitration or mediation.
  • Annulment
    1 : the act of annulling : the state of being annulled 2 : a declaration by a court that a marriage is invalid compare divorce
  • Arrearage
    1 : the condition of being in arrears 2 : something that is in arrears ;esp : something unpaid and overdue : arrear often used in pl. [the Virginia court reduced the s to a final judgment ...
  • Burden Of Proof
    :the responsibility of producing sufficient evidence in support of a fact or issue and favorably persuading the trier of fact (as a judge or jury) regarding that fact or issue [the burden of proof is ...
  • Child Support
    : payment made for the support of the children of divorced or separated parents while the children are minors or until they reach an age set by the separation agreement or in a court order compare ...
  • Child Support Guidelines
    Guidelines established by statute or rule in each jurisdiction that set forth the manner in which child support must be calculated, generally based on the income of the parents and the needs of the ...
  • Community Property
    see property
  • Complainant
    : the party (as a plaintiff or petitioner) who makes the complaint in a legal action or proceeding
  • Complaint
    1 : the initial pleading that starts a lawsuit and that sets forth the allegations made by the plaintiff against the defendant and the plaintiff's demand for relief see also prayer, process, ...
  • Custody
    [Latin custodia, from custod- custos guardian] : care or control exercised by a person or authority over something or someone: as a : supervision and control over property that usually includes ...
  • Decree
    [Old French decré, from Latin decretum, from neuter of decretus, past participle of decernere to decide] 1 : an order having the force of law [by judicial ] 2 : a judicial decision esp. in an ...
  • Default
    [Anglo-French defalte defaute lack, fault, failure to answer a summons, from defaillir to be lacking, fail, from de-, intensive prefix + faillir to fail] 1 : failure to do something required by duty ...
  • Dependent
    1 : determined or conditioned by another : contingent 2 a : relying on another for esp. financial support b : lacking the necessary means of support or protection and in need of aid from others ...
  • Deposition
    [Late Latin depositio testimony, from Latin, act of depositing, from deponere to put down, deposit] 1 a : a statement that is made under oath by a party or witness (as an expert) in response to oral ...
  • Discovery
    pl: -er·ies 1 : the act or process of discovering 2 : something discovered [applied for a patent for the ] 3 a : the methods used by parties to a civil or criminal action to obtain information ...
  • Disposable Income
    : income available for disposal: as a : the income remaining to an individual after deduction of taxes b : the income of a debtor in bankruptcy that is not necessary to support the debtor or the ...
  • Disposition
    1 a : the final determination of a matter (as a case or motion) by a court or quasi-judicial tribunal [the beneficiary of such a of charges against him "United States v. Smith, 354 A.2d 510 (1976)"] ...
  • Dissolution
    : the act or process of ending: as a : the termination of an organized body (as a court) b : the ending of a partnership relationship caused by the withdrawal of one of the partners from the ...
  • Divorce
    [Middle French, from Latin divortium, from divortere divertere to leave one's marriage partner, from di- away, apart + vertere to turn] : the dissolution of a valid marriage granted esp. on specified ...
  • Domestic Violence
    : violence committed by one family or household member against another see also restraining order at order
  • Enforcement
    : the act or process of enforcing [ of the debt]
  • Equitable Distribution
    : the distribution of marital assets by a court in a divorce action in accordance with statutory guidelines that are designed to produce a fair but not necessarily equal division of the property
  • Establishment
    1 : something established: as a : a church recognized by law as the official church of a nation or state and supported by civil authority b : a permanent civil or military organization c : a place ...
  • Full Faith And Credit
    : the recognition and enforcement of the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of one state by another see also Article IV of the Constitution in the back matter compare choice of law, ...
  • Garnishment
    : a remedial device used by a creditor to have property of the debtor or money owed to the debtor that is in the possession of a third party attached to pay the debt to the creditor ;specif : ...
  • Guardian
    : one who has or is entitled or legally appointed to the care and management of the person or property of another compare committee, conservator, curator, receiver, tutor guardian ad li·tem ...
  • Guardianship
    A legal arrangement under which one person (a guardian) has the legal right and duty to care for another (the ward) and his or her property. A guardianship is established because of the ward's ...
  • Imputed Income
    : income calculated from the supposed value of intangible or non-cash sources
  • In Re
    [Latin] : in the matter of used in the title or name of a case where the proceeding is in rem or quasi in rem and not in personam (as in a matter involving a probate or bankruptcy estate, a ...
  • Income
    : a gain or recurrent benefit usually measured in money that derives from capital or labor ;also : the amount of such gain received in a period of time [an of $20,000 a year]
  • Intercept
    : to receive (a communication or signal directed elsewhere) usually secretly [shall not be unlawful…for a person acting under color of law to a wire, oral, or electronic communication where ...
  • Interrogatories
    Written questions served by the opposing party that must be answered in writing as part of the discovery process.
  • Joint Legal Custody
    The sharing, by both parents, of the right to make important decisions about a child's welfare.
  • Joint Physical Custody
    The sharing, by both parents, of the actual physical care and custody of a child.
  • Judgment
    also judge·ment [jəj-mənt] n 1 a : a formal decision or determination on a matter or case by a court ;esp : final judgment in this entry compare dictum, disposition, finding, ...
  • Jurisdiction
    [Latin jurisdictio, from juris, genitive of jus law + dictio act of saying, from dicere to say] 1 : the power, right, or authority to interpret, apply, and declare the law (as by rendering a ...
  • Legal Custody
    The right to make important decisions about the raising of your child, on issues such as health care, religious upbringing, education, etc.
  • Legal Separation
    : a separation of spouses which does not involve a dissolution of the marriage but in which certain arrangements (as for maintenance and custody) are ordered by the court called also divorce a mensa ...
  • Marital Property
    see property
  • Mediation
    : nonbinding intervention between parties esp. in a labor dispute to promote resolution of a grievance, reconciliation, settlement, or compromise compare arbitration
  • Motion
    [Anglo-French, from Latin motion- motio movement, from movēre to move] 1 : a proposal for action ;esp : a formal proposal made in a legislative assembly [made a to refer the bill to committee] ...
  • Non-Custodial Parent
    The parent who does not have physical custody of the child(ren).
  • Non-Marital Property
    Generally, property owned by either spouse prior to marriage or acquired by them individually, such as by gift or inheritance, during the marriage.
  • Obligation
    1 : a promise, acknowledgment, or agreement (as a contract) that binds one to a specific performance (as payment) ;also : the binding power of such an agreement or indication [held that the ...
  • Obligee
    : one (as a creditor) to whom another is legally obligated [an protected by a surety bond] compare debtor, obligor
  • Obligor
    : one who is bound by an obligation to another [an obligation extinguished by performance of the ] compare creditor, debtor, obligee, promisor, surety
  • Offset
    : a claim or amount that reduces or balances another claim or amount : set-off [the creditor's own debt was an ] ;also : the reduction or balance achieved by such a claim
  • Order
    1 : a state of peace, freedom from unruly behavior, and respect for law and proper authority [maintain law and ] 2 : an established mode or state of procedure [a call to ] 3 a : a mandate from a ...
  • Paternity
    1 : the quality or state of being a father 2 : origin or descent from a father
  • Payee
    : a person to whom money is to be or has been paid ;specif : the person named in a bill of exchange, note, or check as the one to whom the amount is directed to be paid compare drawee, drawer
  • Payor
    also pay·er [pā-ər] n : a person who pays ;specif : the person by whom a note or bill has been or should be paid
  • Petitioner
    Often, the person who initiates divorce or marriage dissolution proceedings, also called the plaintiff.
  • Physical Custody
    see custody
  • Premarital Agreement
    An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party's rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a prenuptial agreement.
  • Prenuptial Agreement
    : antenuptial agreement
  • Proceeding
    1 : a particular step or series of steps in the enforcement, adjudication, or administration of rights, remedies, laws, or regulations: as a : an action, hearing, trial, or application before the ...
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Order (Qdro)
    Pronounced "kwah-dro," an order issued by the court to divide retirement benefits.
  • Respondent
    : one who answers or defends in various proceedings: as a : an answering party in an equitable proceeding b : a party against whom a petition (as for a writ of habeas corpus) seeking relief is ...
  • Restraining Order
    see order
  • Same-Sex Marriage
    The right of two people of the same sex to legally marry, and to enjoy the legal benefits conferred by marriage. Same-sex marriage has become a topical issue in the arena of civil rights.
  • Settlement Conference
    A meeting at which the parties and their lawyers attempt to settle the case before trial, often ordered by the court.
  • Split Custody
    A form of custody (generally not looked upon favorably) in which some or one of the parties' children is/are in the custody of one parent and the remaining child(ren) is/are in the custody of the ...
  • Spousal Support Or Maintenance
    Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse during separation or following divorce. Also called alimony.
  • Stipulation
    1 : an act of stipulating 2 : something stipulated: as a : an agreement between parties regarding some aspect of a legal proceeding [a of facts] [admitted the charges in a prehearing "New York Law ...
  • Subpoena
    also sub·pe·na [sə-pē-nə] n [Latin sub poena under penalty] : a writ commanding a designated person upon whom it has been served to appear (as in court or before a ...
  • Summons
    pl: sum·mons·es [-mən-zəz] : a written notification that one is required to appear in court: as a : a document in a civil suit that is issued by an authorized judicial officer ...
  • Tribunal
    [Latin, platform for magistrates, from tribunus tribune, from tribus tribe] 1 : the seat of a judge or one acting as a judge 2 : a court or forum of justice : a person or body of persons having to ...
  • Visitation
    1 : an official visit (as for inspection) [ of the home of a neglected child] 2 : access to a child granted esp. to a parent who does not have custody [supervised ] [ rights]
  • Wage Assignment
    see assignment