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Divorce Glossary

Alimony: Support (not to be confused with child support) paid by one spouse to another, to enable the receiver maintain his or her customary lifestyle.

Annulment: The legal termination of an “Invalid Marriage”. In the eyes of the law neither party was ever married. However, all offspring resulting from the annulled marriage are considered and remain legitimate.

Arrearages: If alimony or child supports are not paid, this term refers to the delinquent amount.

Child Support: The money paid by the non-custodial to the custodial parent to defray expenses of rearing the child(ren).

Child Support Guidelines: A schedule established by the state, based upon income, for paying child support. Federal law dictates that all states establish these guidelines.

Common Law Marriage: Some states allow judges to make such marriages, usually based on cohabitation, legally binding.

Community Property: This a provision of property law regarding the division of all property acquired during the term of the marriage. In some states, inheritances and gifts are excluded from this.

Complaint: The formal document filed with the court in which a plaintiff states why he or she wants a divorce.

Contested Divorce: One party to a divorce sues because either he or she denies the grounds asserted, or does not agree about the terms of the divorce.

Court Order: A written instruction from the court that is legally binding. If you knowingly violate a court order you can be held in contempt of court.

Custodial Parent: This is the parent with whom the child(ren) lives the majority of the time.

Custody: The court-ordered legal right and responsibility for the care of a child.

Deposition: This is the situation in which a person or witness is asked questions orally before a court reporter, and his or hear answers are written down.

Equitable Distribution: The division of the property (marital assets) acquired during the marriage. Marital debts can also be part of the equitable distribution.

Grounds: The legally-recognized reasons for granting a divorce.

Interrogatory: Written questions asked by one party of an opposing party, who must answer them in writing under oath.

Joint Custody: By sanctioned agreement, the children live with the “residential custodian” and visit with the non-residential parent. The parents have an equal say in major decisions affecting the children and these can only be made with notice and consent.

Marital Assets: This refers to all property acquired during the course of the marriage regardless of who owns or has title to it.

Mediation: The process in which a neutral third party works with you to in preparing a divorce agreement. Mediated agreements are non-binding.

Motion: A request for some type of action or decision to be made by the court.

Non-Custodial Parent: The parent with whom the child(ren) do not live the majority of the time.

Plaintiff: The person who files the divorce complaint, thus suing for divorce.

Quid Pro Quo: The giving of one valuable thing for another.

Restraining Order: A court order that prohibits someone from engaging in specified activities.

Sole Custody: In this arrangement, the custodial parent has the power to make all decisions regarding the child(ren). Compare to Joint Custody.

Spousal Support: See Alimony

Subpoena: A court order that requires someone to appear at a legal proceeding.

Visitation: This is the court-granted right of the non-custodial parent to see the children.
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