FAMILY LAW GLOSSARY


Affidavit.  Sworn statement in writing, usually made under oath or on affirmation before a magistrate or officer (often a notary public).

Alimony.  Also called spousal support or spousal maintenance.  Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse while the parties are physically separated, while a divorce proceeding is pending, or following a divorce. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  Methods of resolving legal disputes in a less adversarial manner without having to go to trial such as mediation. 

Annulment.  An impediment that renders the marriage void

Arrearage. Money for child or spousal support that has not been paid and is past due.

Child Support.  Money that a noncustodial parent pays to the custodial parent for the support of  their child(ren).

Child Support Guidelines. Guidelines established by statute or rule in each jurisdiction that set forth the manner in which child support is calculated, generally based on the income of the parents and the needs of the children.

COBRA.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law giving you and your covered dependents the right to continue group health coverage on a self-paid basis if eligibility for employer-sponsored group medical and dental insurance is lost through loss of employment or through divorce. COBRA eligibility is usually for 18 or 36 months after the event.

COLA.  Cost of Living Adjustment.

Community Property.  Property acquired by either spouse during the course of a marriage is considered community property.

Contempt of Court.  The deliberate failure to comply with the orders or directives of the Court.

Custody.  Legal custody refers to the right to make the important decisions about your minor child(ren) regarding their education, healthcare, and general welfare.  Physical custody, or residential custody, refers to where the child(ren) lives most of the time. 

Default.  Failing to answer a petition or complaint for divorce within the time provided by the summons. 

Defendant.  The person against whom a complaint is filed. 

Deposition. Part of the discovery or information exchanging process in a legal proceeding in which an attorney asks a party or witness questions under oath that are recorded so that a transcript of the proceedings can be prepared.

Discovery. The process of exchanging information between parties during a legal proceeding, including serving and answering interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions.

Dissolution. The termination of a marriage.

Divorce. The termination of a marriage.

Docket.  The court's calendar schedule.

Domestic Partnership.  An arrangement in which unmarried persons cohabitate or live together with an intention to pool their resources and assets, and share their property and debt.  Arizona law does not recognize “common law” marriages as a result of unmarried persons living together for an extended period of time. Domestic partners can often obtain much of the same relief that is available to a divorcing couple. 

Domestic Violence. Physical abuse or threats of abuse occurring between members of the same family or household including Homicide, Assault, Terroristic threats, Kidnapping, Criminal restraint, False imprisonment, Sexual assault, Criminal sexual contact, Lewdness, Criminal mischief, Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Harassment, and Stalking. 

Equitable Distribution. A division of property that is fair in view of all of the circumstances. 

Ex-Parte.  On or from one side or party only, sometimes used in reference to the absence of the opposing party. Hearing.  A court session in which testimony or arguments are offered by attorneys or involved parties for the purpose of resolving a legal dispute.

Interrogatories. Written questions served by the opposing party that must be answered in writing as part of the discovery process.

Joint Legal Custody. The continued co-parenting of a minor child after a divorce, or the sharing of the right to make important decisions about a child’s welfare by both parents. Many professionals in the family law field, including judges, lawyers, therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists believe this is the preferred method of raising a child after a divorce.

Joint Physical Custody.   The condition under which the physical residence of the child(ren) is shared by the parents in a manner that assures that the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents. 

Maintenance or Separate Maintenance.  Financial payments made to a separated spouse for a specified period of time or until a further court order.  Separate Maintenance is most commonly awarded during a separation or during the divorce process to allow the less fortunate spouse to continue the standard of living established during the marriage. 

Marital property. All property acquired during the marriage is marital property.  Some property purchased before the marriage may be considered based on the circumstances, contributions, and improvements made by the spouse.

Mediation. A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for resolving legal disputes without going to trial, by the use of a trained and impartial third party who attempts to bring the parties together in mutual agreement.

Noncustodial Parent. The parent who does not have physical custody of the child(ren).

Obligee.  A person who is owed something by another such as child or spousal support.

Obligor.  A person who owes something to another such as child or spousal support.

Parenting Plan.  The schedule for the noncustodial parent’s time with his or her child(ren).

Parenting Time.  The time that a noncustodial parent spends with his or her child(ren).

Petition for Dissolution.  The wording used in some states for the legal Petition for Divorce.

Petitioner.  The person who initiates or files legal proceedings. 

Physical Custody. A parent’s right to have the minor child(ren) live in his or her home, which carries with it the day‑to‑day rights and responsibilities for the care and upbringing associated with having the child(ren) in the home.

Plaintiff. The person who initiates or files legal proceedings. 

Premarital Agreement. An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial Agreement. An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a premarital agreement.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). An order issued by the court to divide retirement benefits.  Often called a “quad‑ro” by lawyers and judges.  The preparation of a QDRO requires the parties to hire a third party to prepare a valuation and order.  The parties usually split the cost of the preparation of the QDRO.by

Respondent.  The person against whom a complaint is filed.

Sole Custody.  The condition under which one person has legal custody.

 

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