Navigating a divorce will be so much easier if you can understand the lingo. To that end, here are definitions of some common terms you may encounter throughout the divorce process.
Parental kidnapping: The act of a parent taking a child in violation of a court custody order.
Petitioner: The spouse who files for, or initiates, the divorce.
Physical custody: The right and responsibility to house and care for the children day-to-day.
Postnuptial agreement: Similar to a prenuptial agreement, but entered during the marriage, often to revise the prenup.
Premarital assets: Assets acquired before the marriage. Usually included in distribution in equitable distribution states and excluded in community property states.
Prenuptial agreement (prenup): A written, premarital agreement that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities in the case that the marriage terminates, by death or divorce.
Process server: A person who serves court papers to a party.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “kwah-dro”): A court-order dividing retirement benefits between spouses.
Quit claim: To release or relinquish a legal claim.
Rehabilitative alimony: Short-term spousal support intended to help the receiving party start a new life.
Respondent: The spouse on the receiving end of a divorce petition.
Restraining order: A court order prohibiting a party from engaging in certain activities, including having contact with certain people, for a set period of time.
Retainer: The fee paid to an attorney or other professional for their services, usually in advance.
Separation date: The date on which one or both spouses decided the marriage was over and took action (such as moving out) to that effect.
Service: The act of serving the respondent with legal papers, essentially notifying him or her that the divorce has been filed.
Subpoena: A court order to attend a legal proceeding. Documents can also be subpoenaed.
Summons: Written notice to appear in court as a defendant or witness or to respond to a complaint/petition.
Trial: A formal legal proceeding before a judge, who receives evidence and testimony and makes a decision about the matters presented.
Visitation (or visitation rights): The time a noncustodial parent may spend with the children, generally set by court order.
Waiver: A legal document with which one relinquishes a right, claim, or privilege.
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