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Thinking about divorce? Already in the process of divorce but waiting for the courts to reopen? There is absolutely no need to be sitting around waiting. At Mediation and Beyond, we believe this is the best time to be thinking, learning and planning your next steps and get acquainted with some of the divorce lingo so you can divorce wisely, with less conflict and cost effectively. This a perfect time to become familiar with some of the terms that you may encounter in your divorce. The world of divorce has it's own language which can be challenging at times, being informed is not only smart but can often reduce some of the overwhelm that can accompany the process. Below is a mini-reference guide to understanding some divorce terminology that you may encounter along your divorce journey. Contact Mediation and Beyond now for your virtual consultation, and let’s plan your family’s next steps.

 

Legal Terms of the Divorce Process

 Here is a sampling of legal terms you may encounter in your divorce process:

Alimony

A husband or wife’s court ordered provision for a spouse after separation or divorce.

Affidavit 

A written statement made under oath, often under penalty of perjury.

Child Custody 

The legal designation of who is authorized to make decisions about a child’s health, education and welfare, as well as where he or she lives. Custody is broken down into categories. Legal custody means decision making power, and physical custody is where a child lives, and how he or she spends time with parents or other custodians, often called a Parenting Plan.

Child Support

The obligation for a periodic payment made by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent, caregiver or guardian for the support and care of a child. 

Child Visitation

The amount of time, and the schedule, which a child spends with each parent. The more modern term is parenting plan since a parent isn’t really a “visitor” with his or her child. Visitation falls under the designation of physical custody it is not impacted by legal custody (decision-making power).

Child Visitation Rights

Rights that award visitation to the non-custodial parent, caregiver, or guardian. Generally, biological parents have the right to see their children. It’s generally a question of amount of time and where that time is spent. 

Children

For purposes of divorce, your children include your biological and adopted children. For children born out of wedlock, paternity must be proven, or the children must be legally acknowledged to be the child of the parent(s).

Co-parenting

A modern term for child custody which implies a cooperative style of parenting for parents who are no longer married or living together but who wish to maintain a good relationship for the sake of their children.

Defendant

The person who does not file the divorce paperwork. This only means that your spouse filed their paperwork first, it does not demonstrate to the court that you did something wrong.

Dissolution of Marriage

Legal term for divorce. When a marriage is dissolved, the parties are single and unmarried after the final decree enters with the court.

Divorce

When a marriage is dissolved, the parties are single and unmarried after the final decree enters with the court.

Divorce financial

The financial divorce is one component of a divorce. Typically, this encompasses the assets (cars, house, etc.) and sometimes it also includes spousal support and child support. Components of a typical divorce include the financial settlement (assets), support orders (spousal support, child support) and parenting plans (custody).

Divorce laws

Each state has different divorce laws, and these laws fall into 2 categories equitable division and community property. Equitable division laws give the court the power to order whatever the court feels is fair given individual circumstances, and community property laws require the court to divide the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage 50/50, with some exceptions. In mediation and collaborative law, you’re free to negotiate whatever you and your spouse feel is fair, with the laws in mind, of course. Mediation lets you figure out what will work best for your family, not just the law.

Divorce Mediation

Custody mediation typically consist of several joint meetings between spouses (or parents, if you are not married) which last 3-4 hours each. During those meetings, you and your spouse discuss the issues which need to be resolved in your case. The mediator is there to facilitate the discussion, assist with communication, provide information and suggestions, and use specialized training to assist the two of you to resolve your differences and write up an agreement which is fair to both of you, and, if you have children, in their best interests as well. 

End Marriage

Marriages may end in separation, Legal Separation, or divorce.

Family and divorce

Although divorce may end the marital relationship, families endure. Divorce doesn’t need to end your ability to be good co-parents or even friends. The old model litigation is quickly becoming a thing of the past as more and more people realize the collateral damage that a high conflict divorce causes for children, relatives, friends, and for the individuals involved.

Legal divorce

The completion of a court Judgment which dissolves your marriage.

Legal separation

A court order or written agreement in which a married couple agrees to live separately while still remaining legally married. Many people confuse the idea of separating (living apart) from Legal Separation. Legal Separation is a legal term which describes a process which is very similar to divorce, with the same rights and responsibilities, but which does not result in your being divorced at the end. Some people choose Legal Separation for religious reasons, or in order to stay on a spouse’s health insurance plan.

Marital property

Marital property describes the assets and debts that you will accumulate together once you are married.

Marital Settlement Agreement

A written document that outlines the financial, support, and custody arrangements which is signed by both parties and approved by the court.

Marriage

Legal union between two adults

Mediation

Intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or Compromise. Divorce Mediation and Custody Mediation are a way to resolve your divorce or custody dispute which lets you keep full control of the outcome. The only people making decisions are those involved in the dispute, unlike arbitration or litigation where a judge or an arbitrator makes the final decision

Mediator

A third-party negotiator who acts as a link between parties so that parties reconcile disputes. Divorce Mediation and custody mediation typically consists of several joint meetings between spouses (or parents, if you are not married). During those meetings, you and your spouse discuss the issues which need to be resolved in your case. The mediator is there to facilitate the discussion, assist with communication, provide information and suggestions, and use specialized training to assist the two of you to resolve your differences and write up an agreement which is fair to both of you, and, if you have children, in their best interests as well.

Non-custodial parent

Parent who does not have physical custody of a child. Today, with more and more parents sharing custody and participating in their children’s lives, we more often refer to the parenting plan rather than designating one parent as “non-custodial”.

Parenting plan

The written court orders which outline how often and when the children will be with each parent and how child-focused decisions will be made. Parenting plans typically include decision making protocols, a day-to-day schedule, vacations, holidays and travel, as well as other parenting issues such as how to handle a relocation request.

Peaceful Resolution

Allowing yourself to grieve the end of your relationship is an important part of healing, and, eventually, you’ll allow the new chapter of your post-divorce life to begin. Handling your divorce in a civil, pro-active and thoughtful way will help the healing process begin, leaving you with a clear path toward happiness in the future. Mediation is a good first step in working through your divorce issues in a sane, sensible way.

 Plaintiff

The first person who files their divorce paperwork with the court.

 Separation

Many people confuse the idea of separating (living apart) from Legal Separation. It’s legal to live separately, but some people need help in figuring out who will pay the bills, where the children will spend their time, and how you’ll handle support while you’re separated and either working on reconciliation or deciding to get divorced. Mediators can be very helpful in facilitating your discussions about these tough issues, especially when your separation is new. Legal Separation is a legal term which describes a process very similar to divorce, with the same rights and responsibilities, but does not result in your being divorced at the end. Some people choose Legal Separation for religious reasons, or in order to stay on a spouse’s health insurance plan. 

Separation agreement

A written document that outlines the financial, support, and custody arrangements which is signed by both parties and approved by the court.

Separation and divorce

Many people confuse the idea of separating (living apart) from Legal Separation. It’s legal to live separately, but some people need help in figuring out who will pay which joint bills, where the children will spend their time, and how you’ll handle support while you’re separated and either working on reconciliation or deciding to get divorced. Mediators can be very helpful in facilitating your discussions about these tough issues, especially when your separation is new. Legal Separation is a legal term which describes a process which is very similar to divorce, with the same rights and responsibilities, but which does not result in your being divorced at the end. Some people choose Legal Separation for religious reasons, or in order to stay on a spouse’s health insurance plan.

Serve divorce papers

When a divorce is started, a Petition or Complaint is filed with the court. That document needs to be given to the other party, which is called Service of Process. This ensures that all parties to the divorce are aware that papers have been filed with the court, giving them an opportunity to respond and participate in the case.

Spousal support (alimony, maintenance)

Income supplement or replacement for a spouse who earns less than his or her marital partner. Spousal support, maintenance, spousal maintenance and alimony are synonyms in many states.

Spouse

Person to whom you are legally married.

Uncontested divorce

Divorce in which all issues are settled and paperwork setting forth the spouses' agreement is submitted to the court for approval. Many cases which are mediated result in an uncontested divorce.

 Call now and book a free virtual informative experience. Knowledge is necessary to moving forward in the way that is best for you and your family. Not all divorces are created equal.