Glossary of Divorce Terms

Each state varies in their divorce terms, but here is some basic information that you may find useful when evaluating divorce lawyers:

Glossary of Divorce Terms

Divorce: the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

Plaintiff: filing spouse; spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the court

Defendant: non-filing spouse; spouse who receives the divorce papers by service.

Cohabitation: the act of living together

Complaint for Absolute Divorce: form that identifies the parties, the ground, and the relief desired.

Property: any assets, debts, retirement benefits, pensions, stock options, and insurance benefits owned by an individual.

Separate property: assets owned before marriage, and gifts or inheritance received during marriage, including any income and appreciation of such assets, gifts or inheritance.

Marital property:  any property not considering separate property; including the marital home and any pension or retirement accounts.

Alimony: a court-ordered provision for a spouse after separation or divorce.

Child support: court-ordered payments made by one parent to another to support a minor child, or children.

Minor child: a person under a certain age, decided by jurisdiction but generally 18 years old, which legally differentiates childhood from adulthood.

Joint custody: a decision by the court, and often agreed upon by the parents, to share either physical or legal custody of a child.

Physical joint custody: joint custody based on reasonable time with each parent either spelled out or based on stated guidelines and shared payment of costs.

Legal joint custody: both parents can make decisions, including medical treatment, for the child.