Below are some of the terms used in divorce proceedings:
Alimony : A sum of money paid by a spouse to the former spouse during separation or after the divorce. It is also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) : Methods of settling legal disputes out of court and in a less adversarial setting such as mediation and arbitration.
Arrearage : Amount of past due child support or alimony.
Child support : Amount of money paid regularly by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for support of the children from the marriage.
Child support guidelines : Custody – Rights to the child. When a parent has physical custody of the child, it means that the child lives with and is raised by that parent. If the parent has legal custody, it means that he or she can take decision that will affect the child’s life and welfare.
Decree : The final order or decision awarding the divorce and often passed together with the judgment.
Default : Failing to respond to the divorce petition or compliant. Failure to respond or appear will result in the court granting the filing spouse everything he or she has requested in the petition or compliant.
Defendant : The person or party against whom a lawsuit is filed. Also referred to as Respondent.
Deposition : A process which is part of discovery wherein the attorney for the other side questions you and your answer them and a transcript of the entire questions and answers is prepared.
Discovery : Process of exchanging information between the parties to a lawsuit including interrogatories, disposition and product of documents.
Dissolution : Another term for divorce
Divorce : Process by which a marriage is legally terminated.
Domestic violence : Actual physical abuse or threats between members of the same family or household.
Equitable distribution : Division of property that is fair in the circumstances. Does not mean equal.
Interrogatories : Written questions from the other party as part of discover. Must be answered in writing.
Joint Legal Custody : Both parents have the right to take decisions that will affect the child’s life and welfare.
Joint physical custody : Both parents share the physical custody of the children.
Legal custody : The right to take decisions that will affect the child’s life and welfare.
Mediation : An attempt to reach a mutually acceptable settlement through the use of an impartial third party called the mediator.
Non-custodial parent : The spouse who is not awarded physical custody of the children
Non-marital property : Property acquired by either spouse before the marriage or acquired during the marriage as inheritance or gift.
Physical custody : Right to live with and raise the children.
Petitioner : Person filing the divorce petition or complaint. Also referred to as Plaintiff.
Plaintiff : Person filing the divorce petition or complaint. Also referred to as Petitioner.
Premarital agreement : Agreement between the spouses entered prior to the marriage setting forth the rights and obligations of each spouse in case the marriage does not work out or on the death of one spouse. Also referred to a Prenuptial Agreement.
Prenuptial agreement : Agreement between the spouses entered prior to the marriage setting forth the rights and obligations of each spouse in case the marriage does not work out or on the death of one spouse. Also referred to a Premarital Agreement.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) : Order for division of retirement benefits.
Restraining order : Court order requiring a person to not do something.
Settlement conference : Meeting to attempt settling the case prior to trial. Sometime ordered by the court.
Split custody : Custody arrangement or order wherein some children are in custody of one parent and the other children are in custody of the other parent.
Spousal support or maintenance : A sum of money paid by a spouse to the former spouse during separation or after the divorce. It is also referred to as alimony.
Stipulation : Agreement between the divorcing spouses settling the issues between them and generally forms part of the final divorce judgment and decree.
Visitation : Right of the non-custodial parent to spend time with the children.