Family Law Terms to Know

Family Law Terms to Know

Whether you are about to enter a divorce case or custody battle, it is critical to be prepared as much as possible. Hiring an experienced family law attorney is key, but as a client, you should take time to research before going to court. This includes understanding certain terminology relating to your case, especially since legal terms are constantly changing. Below are family law-related words and definitions to help make for a smoother process.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities – the rights and responsibilities of both parents to make important decisions in the child’s welfare, including such issues as education, religion and health care

Allocation of Parenting Time – the sharing, by both parents, of the actual physical care and control of the parties’ minor child(ren)

Annulment –  a court order that makes a marriage void as if the marriage never took place.

Child Support – payment made for the financial support of a minor child or children.

Child Support Guidelines – standards used to determine how child support should be calculated based on the income of the parents and needs of the children.

Dependent – one who relies on another, especially for financial support

Dissolution of Marriage (also known as ‘Divorce’) – termination/ ending of a marriage through legal proceedings

Domestic Violence – violence committed by one person against another person in which the parties share a familial relationship, are in or have been in a relationship

Equitable Distribution – the fair division and distribution of marital property and debt during a divorce

Guardian – one who is legally appointed to the care and management of the person or property of another

Guardianship – a legal arrangement under which one person (a guardian) has the legal responsibility to care for another (the ward) and/ or their property

Legal Separation – an arrangement in which a married couple lives apart, but remains legally married following a court order

Maintenance (formerly known as ‘Alimony’) – payment made to one spouse by the other for support during or after legal separation or divorce

Marital Property – property acquired by either spouse during marriage that is subject to division upon divorce

Mediation – a method used to resolve issues between two or more parties without resorting to litigation

Non-Marital Property – property owned by either spouse prior to marriage or acquired by them individually during the marriage, such as by gift or inheritance, during the marriage

Order of Protection – a court order issued after a hearing attended by all parties that is intended to to prohibit an individual from causing harm or fear to another person of a specified duration

Paternity – the quality or state of being a father

Premarital Agreement (also known as ‘Prenuptial Agreement’) – an agreement entered into before marriage designed to protect the property and assets of one or both spouses and/ or specify terms of maintenance should the marriage dissolve in the future

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO; pronounced “kwah-dro”) – a court order establishing the right of a former spouse to receive a portion of the individual’s retirement plan

Temporary Restraining Order – a court order that protects an individual (or multiple) from physical, mental, verbal or other forms of abuse

Same-Sex Marriage/Civil Union – the right of two people of the same sex to legally marry, and to enjoy the legal benefits conferred by marriage

Spousal Support or Maintenance (also called ‘Alimony’) – financial payments made to support a former spouse during separation or following divorce

Cases involving domestic relation issues can be difficult, but being prepared can help ease the process. Here are additional resources to review before meeting with your family law attorney.

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