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Family Law

Commonly Used Terms

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Abandonment

The act of willfully leaving a spouse or child without any intent to return.

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Absolute Divorce

A dissolution of the marriage that releases the parties from their marital obligations.

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Adoption

The creation of a parent child relationship between two parties who are usually unrelated.

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Adultery

Consensual sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the person’s spouse.

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Alimony

A court ordered allowance that one spouse pays to the other spouse for maintenance and support while separated, pending divorce, or post-divorce.

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Annulment

The legal declaration that a marriage is void.

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Child Neglect

The failure of a person responsible for the minor to care for the minor’s emotional or physical needs.

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Child Support

A parent’s legal obligation to contribute to the economic maintenance and education of a child until the age of majority.

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Child Visitation and Access

A relative, usually a non-custodial parent’s access to a child.

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Community Property

Property owned by both spouses as a result of it having been acquired during the marriage by means other than a inheritance, or a gift to one spouse, each spouse generally having one half interest in the property.

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Consanguinity

Relationship of those who have the same blood or origin.

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Contested Divorce

A divorce in which one spouses opposes in court.

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Custody

The care, control, and maintenance of a minor child awarded by a court to a responsible adult.

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Divorce

The legal dissolution of a marriage by a court.

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Equitable Distribution

The division of marital property by a court in a divorce proceeding under statutory guidelines that provide for a fair but not necessarily equal allocation of the property between the spouses.

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Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian, usually an attorney appointed by a court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of an incompetent or minor party.

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In loco parentis

Acting as a temporary guardian or caretaker of a child, taking on some or all of the responsibilities of a parent.

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Joint Legal Custody

The sharing by both parents of the legal right to make important decisions involving the education, religious training, discipline, medical care, and other matters of major significance concerning the child’s welfare.

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Joint Custody

An arrangement by which both parents share responsibility for and authority over the child at all times, although one parent may exercise primary physical custody.

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Legal Custody

The legal right to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and welfare.

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Limited Divorce

A legal separation.

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Marital Property

Property acquired during marriage that is subject to distribution or division at the time of marital dissolution.

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Mediation

A non-binding method of dispute resolution involving a 3rd party neutral who tries to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable solution.

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Non-Custodial Parent

A parent that does not have primary custody rights of a child.

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Physical Custody

The right to have the child live with the person awarded custody by the court.

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Postnuptial agreement

An agreement entered into after the parties are married to define each spouse’s property rights in the event of death or divorce.

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Prenuptial Agreement

An agreement entered into prior to marriage to resolve issues of support and define each spouse’s property rights in the event of death or divorce.

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Pro Se

One who represents himself in a court proceeding without the assistance of an attorney.

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Protective Order

A court order prohibiting or restricting a party from engaging in conduct that unduly annoys or burdens the opposing party or a third party witness.

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Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

A court order or judgment that modifies the payee of a pension plan to allow a spouse to claim an interest in the retirement benefits.

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Rehabilitative Alimony

Alimony found necessary to assist a divorced person in receiving the education or training to find employment outside the home or to return to the labor force.

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Supervised visitation

Generally, a court ordered visitation in which a parent may visit with the child only in the presence of another individual.

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Sole custody

An arrangement by which one parent has full control, and sole decision making responsibility to the exclusion of the other parent.

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Split Custody

An arrangement by which one parent has custody of one or more children, while the other parent has custody of the remaining children.

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Uncontested Divorce

A divorce that is unopposed by the spouse who did not initiate it.