Navigating a divorce will be 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.
Abandonment: Indicates one spouse has left the marital home. Grounds for divorce in some areas.
Admissible: Any testimony, document, or other demonstrative material that can be officially considered by the court.
Adultery: Sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than his or her spouse. Ground for divorce in some areas.
Affidavit: A written statement, usually signed under oath.
Alienation of Affection: A third party’s intentional and malicious interference with a marital relationship.
Alimony: Court-ordered spousal support paid after the divorce. Also called maintenance or support.
Alimony pendente: Spousal support paid during the separation period before the divorce is finalized.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR): Methods of resolving legal disputes without going to trial (e.g., mediation or arbitration).
Annulment: A legal judgment that a marriage was never legally valid or became invalid at some point. Causes can include: unsound mind, incest, bigamy, below age of consent consent, fraud, force, and physical incapacity.
Arbitration: A legally binding, non-judicial procedure before a neutral third party.
Arrearage: Past due child or spousal support.
Attachment: A court-ordered lean on personal or real property to preserve marital assets.
Best interest of the child: The legal standard when making child-related decisions.
Child custody: See legal custody and physical custody.
Child support: Court-ordered payments by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.
COBRA: A federal law ensuring those receiving group health coverage through an employer-sponsored plan can maintain coverage for a fixed period on a self-paid basis if they lose it to do job loss or divorce.
Cohabitation: When an unmarried couple lives together as if they were married.
Common Law Marriage: A marriage based on cohabitation rather than compliance with marriage statutes. Recognized in some states.
Community debts: Debts the husband and wife owe together.
Community property: Property the husband and wife own together.
Community property division: A system through which all property owned by either spouse and acquired during the marriage is divided equally between the two upon divorce (some exclusions may apply). Community property states include: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
Complaint/petition for divorce: The formal document filed with the court initiating the divorce proceeding.
Contested/uncontested divorce: Refers to whether the parties agree (uncontested) or can’t agree (contested) to a separation agreement.
Custodial parent: Parent who has physical custody of the child.
Court order: Legal decision by the court directing that something be done or not done.
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