Glossary

These are some of the most commonly used terms when filing for divorce.

MyDivorcePapers.com is dedicated to helping you get an online divorce in a variety of ways.  It sounds straight forward, but sometimes there are basic questions that you do not realize need to be asked until you are in the thick of it, and then what?  Most of these questions are about what exactly a word means in a document.  Understanding what the legalese means, so that you can effectively fill out your forms and file them, is key to getting an online divorce, and as such, we have included some of those terms you will need to know in order to be successful in your filing.  

Agreement
A verbal or written resolution of disputed issues.
Alimony
A payment of support for one spouse provided by the other spouse made under a court order. May be paid in periodic payments, one lump-sum payment, or a combination of both. May be paid temporarily or on a permanent basis. (Same as spousal support or maintenance.)
Annulment
A legal action that has the result of treating a marriage as if it had never occurred.
Child support
A legal, moral, and ethical obligation to provide full care and support for minor children.
Community property
Generally, all income and property that is acquired by either or both spouses during the course of a marriage, except property acquired by individual gift or inheritance. Community property does not include property that was acquired prior to a marriage. In most community property states, both spouses are considered to own an equal share of all of the community property. (See separate property.)
Contested divorce
A divorce where at least one issue has not been settled prior to court. A court must decide any issues that have not been agreed upon in a contested case.
Custodial parent
The parent with whom a child normally lives.
Divorce
A legal judgment that severs the marriage of two people and restores them to the status of single persons. (Same as dissolution of marriage.)
Dissolution of marriage
A legal judgment that severs the marriage of two people and restores them to the status of single persons.
Equitable division
A method of property division in a divorce (or dissolution of marriage) that is generally based on a variety of factors in an attempt to allocate a fair and just amount of property to each spouse.
Fault-based divorce
A type of divorce that may only be granted on a showing that one of the spouses was guilty of some form of marital misconduct.
Guardian ad litem
Court-appointed legal guardian of a child’s legal rights.
General grounds
Fault-based divorce grounds retained by some states.
Grounds
The legal basis for the divorce (or dissolution of marriage). The grounds may be no-fault or fault-based.
Hold-harmless
A phrase used to describe an agreement by which one person agrees to assume full liability for an obligation and to protect another person from any loss or expense based on that obligation.
Joint legal custody
A form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the responsibilities and major decision-making relating to the child. Generally, one parent is awarded actual physical custody of the child and the other parent is awarded liberal visitation rights. (See joint physical custody, sole custody, and split custody.)
Joint physical custody
A form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the actual physical custody of the child. Generally, an alternating method of custody is used. (See joint legal custody, sole custody, and split custody.)
Joint property
Property that is held or titled in the name of more than one person. (See joint tenancy, community property, and marital property.)
Joint tenancy
A form of joint ownership of property by which each joint owner has an equal share in the property. Generally, a joint tenancy is used in connection with a right of survivorship. (See right of survivorship.)
Jurisdiction
The power or authority of a court to rule in a particular case. A court must have jurisdiction over both the subject matter of the case and the people involved in the dispute in order to have the authority to hear a case and make binding decisions.
Legal court-ordered separation
A court order that specifies a couple is separated. Not provided for in all states.
Legal custody
The right to make all of the major decisions relating to the upbringing of the child.
Legal separation
A legal lawsuit for support while the spouses are living separate and apart. A legal separation may deal with the same issues as in a divorce, but does not end the marriage. (See separate maintenance.)
Lump-sum alimony
Spousal support made in a single payment or fixed amount, but paid in specific installments.
Maintenance
See alimony or spousal support.
Managing conservator
Another name for the parent with custody.
Marital property
Term used to describe the property that is subject to division by a court upon divorce or dissolution. Generally, all property that was acquired during a marriage by either or both spouses, except individual gifts and inheritances. Does not generally include property that was acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage. (See community property, joint property, separate property, and non-marital property.)
Marital Settlement Agreement
A written agreement entered into by divorcing spouses that spells out their rights and agreements regarding property, support, and children. (Same as separation agreement.)
Mediator
Professional trained in conflict resolution and methods of coaching disagreeing spouses.
No-fault divorce
A type of divorce that may be granted without the necessity of showing that either spouse was guilty of some form of marital misconduct.
Non-marital property
Term used to describe separate property in some states that provide for the equitable distribution of property. Generally, non-marital property consists of property acquired prior to a marriage and property acquired by individual gift or inheritance either before or during a marriage. (See marital property, community property, and separate property.)
Physical custody
The right to have the child live with the custodial parent.
Primary caretaker
The parent who provides the majority of the day-to-day care for a minor child.
Primary parental responsibility
Another name for child custody.
Quasi-community property
Property the spouses may have acquired before they moved to a particular state that would have been “community” property if they had lived in that state when they acquired it.
Residence
The place where a person lives. (Generally, same as domicile.)
Right of survivorship
The right of joint owners of a piece of property to automatically be given the other’s share of the property upon the death of the other owner. Generally, this right must be specifically stated on any documents of title for it to apply. For example: a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.
Separate maintenance
A lawsuit for support in a situation where the spouses live separate and apart but are not presently pursuing a divorce or dissolution. (Same as legal separation.)
Separate property
Property considered to be owned individually by one spouse and not subject to division upon divorce in most states. Separate property generally consists of property acquired prior to a marriage and property acquired by individual gift or inheritance either before or during a marriage. (See marital property, community property, and non-marital property.)
Separation agreement
See Marital Settlement Agreement.
Settlement agreement
The written version of a settlement that resolves certain issues. It is generally a valid contract.
Sole custody
A form of child custody in which one parent is given both physical custody of the child and the right to make all of the major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Generally, the other parent is awarded reasonable visitation rights.
Split custody
A form of child custody in which the actual time of physical custody is split between the parents, with both retaining the rights to participate in decisions regarding the child. Also called “divided” or “alternating” custody. Sometimes referred to as joint physical custody. (See joint custody and sole custody.)
Spousal support
See alimony or maintenance.
Tenancy-by-the-entireties
A form of joint ownership in which two married persons hold title to a piece of property in equal shares and each has an automatic right to the other’s share upon death.
Tenancy-in-common
A form of joint ownership in which two or more persons own particular shares of a piece of property. The shares need not be equal and the persons have no legal right to any shares of another upon death.
Uncontested Divorce
A divorce proceeding in which there is no dispute as to any of the legal issues involved. The lack of dispute may be because the other spouse is missing, refuses to participate in the proceeding, or agrees with the other spouse on all issues.
Visitation
Refers to the arrangements made either voluntarily or pursuant to court order to allow the noncustodial parent or grandparents to visit with minor the children.
Waiver
A written document that relinquishes a person’s rights.
 

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