There are many terms used in Divorce and now more widely Dissolution of Marriage. Language makes a difference. The trend is toward words that are less divisive. We stopped using custody years ago and used parenting time for physical custody and legal decision making for legal custody. The Arizona statutes §25-401 states:
“Legal decision-making” means the legal right and responsibility to make all non-emergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. For the purposes of interpreting or applying any international treaty, federal law, a uniform code or the statutes of other jurisdictions of the United States, legal decision-making means legal custody.
“Parenting time” means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times. Each parent during their scheduled parenting time is responsible for providing the child with food, clothing and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning the child’s care.
Some other legal terms (some of which could also be updated)that are good to know include the following:
Acceptance of Service – when the Defendant/Respondent in a case agrees to the proceedings and will not require the papers to be served upon him/her.
Affidavit – a document containing information the person swears to be true. Usually sworn to in the presence of a Notary Public.
Alimony or Spousal Maintenance – support paid to dependent spouses.
Alternate Dispute Resolution or ADR – ways to determine a case without going to court. Examples include mediation, arbitration, and conciliation.
Annulment – a case brought seeking to declare marriage void.
Answer – the Defendant/Respondent’s response to a complaint filed by the Plaintiff/Petitioner.
Appeal – when a party to a court case asks a higher court to review a judge’s decision from a lower court.
Bench – term used to refer to judges or the court.
Child Support – funds paid from one party to the other party to support a minor child or children.
Case Number – a number assigned to each case by the Clerk’s Office. This number must be found on all documents filed in a case to help the Clerk’s Office keep a record of all papers in the case.
Complaint and Petition – the first documents filed by the Plaintiff/Petitioner that begins a court case. Some jurisdictions are doing away with the adversary nature of the court action. There are not Plaintiff/Petitioner or Defendant/Respondent. The action called “In the Matter of the Dissolution of Marriage of name of one party) and the name of the name of the other party.)
Community Property – All property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned. Unless agreed otherwise, upon a dissolution of marriage, it will be divided approximately equally.
Decree – an order entered by the court that sets forth the judge’s decision granting the divorce/dissolution of marriage and the terms of the divorce/dissolution of marriage.
Defendant or Respondent – the person who action is being brought against.
Discovery – a process whereby the parties find out the witnesses and evidence to be presented by the other side. Discovery includes depositions, interrogatories, and requests for production of documents.
Evidence – the documents, testimony or other information presented by the parties to the court..
Grounds – reasons for bringing the action for divorce/dissolution of marriage.
Marital property – the property spouses acquire during their marriage.
No fault – No-fault divorce is the dissolution of a marriage that does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party.
Party – a person or company involved in a lawsuit – can be either side of a case.
Plaintiff or Petitioner – the person who begins a case in court.
Pro Se or Pro Per – Latin phrase that refers to a litigant who represents himself/herself without the benefit of an attorney.
Separate property – property that a spouse owned before a marriage or was acquired in such a way that prevents it from becoming marital property, such as by a will or inheritance.
Service of Process – refers to the manner in which the opposing party receives notice that a case is being filed against him/her. This must be completed in accordance with law in order for the case to be heard and be binding against the opposing party.
Summons – A document issued by the Clerk of Court to be served on the Defendant/Respondent to notify the Defendant/Respondent that he/she has an action filed against him/her and must file an answer.
These are only a few of the many legal terms.
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