Reading about legal matters and family court processes can mean coming across unfamiliar words and abbreviations. The terms and acronyms explained herein are commonly used in family court or when describing divorce and custody proceedings. Understanding what the legalese means, so that you can effectively speak with your lawyer is key to obtaining a divorce, and as such, I have included some of common terms you may need to know in order to be successful in moving this process forward.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | JK L | M| N | O | P | QR | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A – DC Divorce Family Law Dictionary

ABANDONMENT – the term used to describe the action of one spouse leaving the marital home without consent. This action is deemed as grounds for divorce in some states or provinces. In Maryland the ground for divorce is called desertion.

ABDUCTION (of child) – the act of one parent, often the noncustodial parent, illegally taking or removing a child in violation of a court order, either across state lines and abroad or both.

ABUSE – ground for divorce in a fault divorce in which the plaintiff must prove physical or emotional harm to herself or himself.

ABSENT PARENT – the parent (either the father or the mother) who is physically absent from the home.

ABSENT PARENT – the parent who does not have custodial rights to the child, but is responsible for the partial support of the child and is physically absent from the home where the child resides. This parent is usually referred to as the non-custodial parent.

ACCRUE – to propagate or build upon.

ACTION; ACTIONABLE; CAUSE OF ACTION – the legal term for what is generally referred to as a lawsuit, its cause.

ACTIVE ASSET – real or personal property, including tangible and intangible, which changes in fair market value as a result of actions by its owner.

ACTIVE APPRECIATION – an increase in the value of an asset as a result of its owner’s action, such as refurbishing a property.

ADD-ONS – expenses beyond basic child support, such as child care, education and health costs divided proportionally between the parents.

AD DAMNUM – a Latin term for “to the damage.”

AD HOC – Latin term for “for this.”

ADJUSTED BASIS – investment in property, like commercial real estate, determined by adding the cost of the improvements to the original cost and subtracting depreciation.

ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME (AGI) – term used to describe a person’s gross income, minus particular deductions, such as alimony.

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER – the official who is appointed instead of a judge to preside over the child.

ADMISSIBLE – any form of testimony or evidence that is allowed in court, including any testimony, document, or demonstrative material that complies with the rules of evidence.

AD TESTIFICANDUM – a Latin term usually used in connection with a subpoena to appear for a deposition or as a witness in a trial.

ADULTERY – when one spouse has sexual intercourse with a third party. In some states and provinces this is considered grounds for divorce.

ADVERSARIAL DIVORCE – a divorce where each spouse is unable to come to any agreement.

ADVERSARY – the opposition or the opposing party in a lawsuit. In a divorce, the litigant or adversary will probably be your spouse.

AFDC(AID TO FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN) – financial support in the form of cash given to a family with children in need of financial help. The grant is offered because the head of the family or the custodial parent is not employed and not receiving child support or assistance from the non – custodial parent.

AFFIDAVIT – a written statement of facts that is made under oath and which must be witnessed and signed by a notary or another official authorized to administer oaths.

AFFIDAVIT OF CONSIDERATION – an affidavit stating that marital property was received in a divorce action.

AFFIDAVIT OF MERIT – an affidavit by a qualified expert stating that a claimant alleges a viable malpractice claim against a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, psychologist.

AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE – a certification of service (delivery) of a litigation document, such as a summons.

AFFINITY – relationship existing through a marriage, such as a wife’s relationship to her husband’s blood relatives.

AFFIRMANCE – the approval or confirmation of a lower court order, decree or judgment by an appellate court after a review.

AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE – new facts or legal defenses in response to the opposing spouse’s pleading.

AGREEMENT – a verbal or written resolution of disputes.

ALIENATION OF AFFECTION – any intentional, malicious interference with a marriage.

ALIMONY – financial support paid to one spouse from the other. May be paid in one lump sum or in installments. It can be temporary or permanent. (see spousal support section)

ALIMONY PENDENTE – a pretrial order for spousal support.

ALIMONY TRUST – a trust fund used to pay alimony.

ALL-PROPERTY STATES — these are states that allow separate property to be divided upon divorce.

ALLEGATIONS – the claims that are made against the other spouse in the lawsuit (action).

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR) – specific methods, including mediation and arbitration, with which couples can obtain a divorce settlement without a trial.

ALTERNATE PAYEE – party other than the employee who will be paid pension benefits in the alternative.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR) – an out-of-court settlement process, also knows as arbitration, mediation, and collaborative law, but not litigation.

A MENSA ET THORO – a Latin term for “from table and bed.”

AMERICAN RULE – a general rule holding that the winning side in litigation is not entitled to an award of attorney fees because of success in winning the case.

ANNULMENT – a legal action or lawsuit which may result in treating the marriage as if it never took place.

ANSWER – the formal response for a divorce, separation or annulment petition. The response or answer contains the admission or denial of the allegations made by the petitioner or against the petitioner.

ANTENUPTIAL AGREEMENT – a legal contract signed by two people prior to marriage which states limitations to spouse’s rights to property, support, or inheritance if the marriage ends in divorce.

APPEAL – a legal procedure in which the losing party of a divorce (lawsuit ) requests that a higher court review the decision.

APPEARANCE – a formal submission to the courts by the defendant (respondent) in response to the a complaint or summons.

APPELLANT – the individual who brings the appeal.

APPELLATE COURT – the court in which a appeal is heard.

APPLICATION – the primary step in all divorce proceedings and court order. (The standard forms are available from the court office.

APPORTION – to divide and assign according to a definite rule. The division is not necessarily equal but is fair according to the respective interests of the parties involved.

APPRAISAL – the procedure for determining the fair market value of an asset for equitable distribution in divorce.

APPRAISAL REPORT – a report of the results of an appraisal which begins with the definition of an appraisal problem and leads to a specific conclusion using reasoning and relevant descriptive data.

APPRECIATED VALUE – the increase in the fair market value of an asset since the time it was acquired.

APPRECIATION OF ASSETS – a very important calculation in the distribution of the marital estate.

APPROXIMATION RULE – a concept developed by the ALI to help decide child custody cases by maintaining approximately the same parenting routines after the divorce as before.

ARBITRATION – a legally binding, but not a judicial procedure. When a neutral third party makes judgment on a case. This is not permitted in most states or provinces.

ARREARAGES – a term used to describe the amount of money less the court order amount of Support. If a spouse does not pay the full amount of support, the missing amount is considered the arrearages.

ASSETS – cash, property and investments along with anything else that may be of value to a individual or business.

ASSIGNMENT – the release by an AFDC recipient of all rights to support arrearages owed the recipient and of the right to receive current child support as the result of the receipt of AFDC.

ASSISTED NEGOTIATION – a form of mediation whereby the parties work informally with a neutral third party to develop a separation agreement.

ASSUMPTION OF RISK – an affirmative defense to a tort based on the theory that the plaintiff is not entitled to recover from the defendant for an injury the plaintiff sustained as a result of a clearly dangerous activity to which he or she voluntarily consented.

ATTACHMENT – the process by which the court seizes the property of a debtor.

ATTORNEY MALPRACTICE – a breach of contract or tort by a lawyer when he or she fails in his or her duty to care to a client or third party.

AUTOMATIC RESTRAINING ORDER – a court order freezing assets that goes into effect automatically upon events, including the filing of a divorce or a court order that restricts an individual from partaking in certain actions.

AUTOMATIC WAGE DEDUCTION – a court ordered child support system in which the non – custodial parent has the support amount deducted directly from his or her paycheck which is then distributed by the employer.

AWARD – a decision made by a court to compensate a person for something.

A VINCULO MATRIMONII – a Latin for “from the bond of matrimony.”

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

BAD FAITH – a person’s or entity’s intentional dishonest or corrupt action, pattern or plan.

BAILIFF – the court attendant in charge of maintaining order in the courtroom.

BANKRUPTCY – a legal proceeding in which a person who is financially insolvent requests the federal bankruptcy court to determine his or her debts and use his or her assets to pay those debts.

BATTERER – a person who uses violence and/or threats of physical, sexual or emotional violence against a member of the household or in a dating relationship.

BATTERER INTERVENTION PROGRAM (BIP) – a program aimed at violent people who abuse members of a household or partners in a romantic relationship.

BATTERER PROFILE – a controlling individual who probably witnessed abuse and was abused as a child, has poor impulse control, suffers low self-esteem but can be very charming and seductive early in a relationship, and then without apparent reason becomes explosive and angry.

BENCH TRIAL – a trial before a judge, without a jury; generally the only trial available in a court of equity.

BENCH WARRANT – an order issued by a court for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear in court as ordered. Can also be issued for a witness who has failed to appear in response to a subpoena.

BENEFICIARY – a person who benefits from another’s act or action, such as a will, insurance, and annuity.

BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD – a discretionary legal standard that pertains to support, visitation and custody.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT- the highest and most demanding standard for burden on proof, required in criminal cases, not the burden of proof in civil actions.

BIENES GANACIALES – a term from Spanish law related to a special type of marital property ownership that excluded the estate each spouse had before marriage, but recognized a particular community interest that accumulated during the marriage.

BIFURCATION; BIFURCATED TRIAL – in some jurisdictions, where the grounds for divorce and the property rights and support obligations are tried separately.

BIGAMY – a criminal offense committed when one spouse enters a marriage when the previous marriage has not been terminated.

BILL OF PARTICULARS – the formal title for information attached to a complaint or petition.

BILL OF SALE — a written agreement certifying the transfer or assignment of rights, interest in chattels to another, thereby granting legal ownership.

BILLABLE HOURS – a lawyer’s professional time in a legal matter, excluding administrative time, sometimes graduated to tenths of an hour.

BINDING ARBITRATION — conflict resolution in which the parties agree in advance to comply with the decision of the arbitrator.

BINOMINAL or LATTICE MODEL – used to value or price stock options.

BLACK HOLE — the legal vacuum that happens when a spouses dies during a divorce, leaving the surviving spouse without recourse either under the state’s divorce or probate law.

BLACK-SCHOLES MODEL – used to value or price stock options.

BLOOD TEST – the process by which blood is drawn from a child and its parents and tested to determine biological parentage. It involves genetic HLA and DNA testing.

BONA FIDE – truthfully, honestly and without deceit.

BOND OF MARRIAGE – the creation of a connubial union between husband and wife, with all the privileges and duties of spouses.

BONA FIDE – honestly, openly, without deceit.

BREACH OF CONTRACT – a party’s failure to perform according to the terms set forth in a contract.

BREACH OF DUTY – a party’s failure or disregard of a lawful or ethical duty.

BRIEF – a document presented to the court outlining one side’s position.

BURDEN OF PROOF – one spouse must prove to the court any claims made against the opposing spouse. The claims must be supported with sufficient evidence.

BUY and SELL AGREEMENT – an arrangement, which is particularly common in a closely held corporation or partnership, whereby the surviving owners agree in advance to purchase the interest of a deceased or withdrawing owner.

BUY OUT – a method used in the distribution of marital assets whereby one spouse acquires the interests in marital assets or community property for a lump sum or payments over time.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

CAPITAL ASSET – resources and property, excluding property held for resale in the normal course of business and other excluded categories under the Internal Revenue Code.

CAPITAL GAINS – the profits from an investment that have been held long term.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – a tax lower than ordinary income on the sale of capital assets.

CAPITALIZATION – the conversation of income into value.

CAPTION – the heading of a motion or other document illustrating the names of the plaintiff and the defendant, the name of the court, the court term and the identification number.

CASE IN CHIEF – the part of trial in which each party, respectively, presents his or her evidence, facts and issues to meet the appropriate burden of proof in the case.

CASE LAW – previous court rulings that apply in other cases.

CATHOLIC ANNULMENT – an ecclesiastical judgment within the Catholic church that a marriage is null.

CAUSE-IN-FACT – the specific stimulus for an incident, without which the incident would not have happened.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE – a written statement proving to the court that a copy of a document was served to the person for whom it was intended.

CERTIFIED COPY – a copy of the document contained in the court file. It includes a stamped seal confirming that the copy is indeed a true and correct copy of the document contained in the court file.

CERTIFIED DIVORCE PLANNER (CDP) – a specialist in providing financial advice to those who are divorced or contemplating divorce.

CERTIFIED DIVORCE FINANCIAL ANALYST (CDFA) TM – an expert who has passed examinations to become a specialist in divorce financial issues. May also be a Certified Financial Planner.

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP) – A specialist who has met the standards of the Certified Financial Planner Board Inc. (CFP Board).

CERTIFIED FRAUD EXAMINER – a professional trained to unravel complicated financial scenarios looking for fraudulent manipulation of assets and liabilities.

CERTIORARI – Latin term meaning “to be informed of.”

CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCE – term used as cause to modify an existing court order, either increasing or decreasing the amounts of spousal and/or child support.

CHANGE OF VENUE – a change of judges when one side one side feels the present judge is prejudice.

CHARGING LIEN – the right of a lawyer to be paid from the proceeds of the final divorce settlement.

CHART CHILD SUPPORT METHOD – the method used in some legal areas to establish a basis for determining child support. It takes into consideration the gross income of both parents, less special adjustments such as support for children of a previous marriage, and a set amount of money to be allotted monthly for the child. The court has the authority to digress from the said formula as it decides is necessary in each case.

CHATTEL – personal property.

CHILD ABUSE – a situation where the parent or care giver of a minor child allows, inflicts or permits physical or sexual abuse or allows a situation where there is a risk of physical injury.

CHILD CUSTODY – deals with the living arrangements and the legal decision – making concerning the child (see child custody section in your state).

CHILD NEGLECT – a situation where a minor child lacks adequate care and is danger of physical or psychological harm.

CHILD SUPPORT – the money the non – custodial parent pays to the custodial parent to help pay for the needs of the child.

CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT – the ways and means child support is collected and enforced.

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES – a series of mathematical formulas that help derive the proper amount of child support that should be awarded.

CHILD SUPPORT WORKSHEET – a court form devised to calculate the child support guidelines.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (CHIP) – a 1997 federally funded plan providing health insurance to uninsured children.

CITATION – an order from a court requiring a court appearance.

CIVIL ANNULMENT – a judgment of nullity of a marriage in the secular courts.

CIVIL COURT – the court which presides over non – criminal cases.

CLAIM – the charge by one spouse against another.

CLASSIFICATION OF ASSETS – in a divorce, a preliminary to distribution of property.

CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE – a standard of proof in a civil case, refers to the difficulty faced by a litigant in prove his case.

CLEAR TITLE – transferring ownership of an asset without any encumbrances, obstructions or burdens that present any reasonable question of law or fact.

CLERK – the person responsible for keeping court records and procedures in an orderly fashion.

CLOSELY HELD BUSINESS – a private company.

CLOSELY HELD CORPORATION – a corporate entity with privately owned stock, as opposed to one traded publicly on an exchange.

COBRA – Federal Legislation which guarantees that all individuals who are covered by medical insurance have the right to continue coverage for a monthly fee if employment changes or marital status changes.

COERCION – pressure, either implied or expressed or both, that negates free choice.

COHABITATION – two people living together. Often time a period of cohabitation is written.

COLA – the cost of living adjustment (a COLA offset).

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE – a less costly, litigation-free way of settling disputes by which two parties agree in writing not to use court action.

COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE – other parties, such as mental health and financial professionals, who work toward agreements in collaborative agreements.

COLLATERAL – property pledged as security for a loan or debt.

COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL – a bar to relitigation of issues that have already been tried.

COLLUSION – in a divorce, the agreement between estranged partners for one to commit an act that would justify a divorce.

COMITY – courtesy, and the judicial doctrine that states respect the orders, decrees and judgment of other jurisdictions.

COMMINGLED ASSETS – mixing of assets, separate and marital.

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE – a marriage in which no formal ceremony took place and no license exists.

COMMON LAW PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION – the method of dividing property in a divorce according to who holds the title to the property.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY – all income or property that was acquired during the marriage, with exception to gifts or inheritances.

COMPARABLES – a shortened term for competitive property sales, rentals, or operating expenses used for comparison in the valuation process.

COMPLAINT – the initial pleading filed for divorce with specific grounds states. (see legal process section).

COMPLAINANT – the party who initiates the complaint.

CONCILIATION – the attempt to establish an agreement between the divorcing spouses concerning the children and any other areas in which they do not agree.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW – the propositions of law a judge in a bench trial applies to the facts after they have been found.

CONDONATION – when misconduct of a spouse is no longer grounds of divorce due to the act of forgiveness.

CONFESSION OF – a person’s voluntary admission to a debt and the submission of it the jurisdiction of the court.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST – when any professional is not capable of performing services due to previous relationships or present relationships and/or a situation where confidentiality can be broken.

CONFLICT OF LAWS — a situation that may arise when parties live in one state and divorce in another.

CONNIVANCE – the secret consent to another’s commission of an unlawful act.

CONSENT – a general term used to mean an agreement, particularly in conjunction as an affirmative defense to tort claims including assault, battery, trespass and fraudulent conversion.

CONSOLIDATION – the joining of two related cases.

CONSTRUCTIVE DESERTION – the refusal of one spouse to engage in sexual relations with the other spouse. In some states and provinces this is considered grounds for divorce if lasting for a certain length of time.

CONSTRUCTIVE KNOWLEDGE – information that is inferred, implied or imputed to one by a judicial interpretation based on the context of the facts at issue.

CONSTRUCTIVE SERVICE OF PROCESS – when the service of process is delivered through other methods such as a newspaper due to the unknown where abouts of the spouse.

CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST – a trust in favor of a deserving party created by operation of equitable law against someone who by questionable means and improper conduct obtains or holds the title to property that he or she should not.

CONTEMPT OF COURT – any deliberate failure to comply with the legal process, including the disruption of the court.

CONTESTED DIVORCE – a divorce where at least one issue has not been settled before court. The court must decide the issue or issues.

CONTINGENT FEE – an agreement which specifies that the attorney does not get paid unless the client wins the case. This type of arrangement is generally not allowed in divorce and custody cases.

CONTINUE – the act of postponing a scheduled court hearing to a later time.

CONTUMACIOUS – conduct that a litigant that is contemptuous, stubborn, and intentionally disobedient of the court.

CONVEY – to transfer property to someone by selling it or by other means.

CO-PARENTING PLAN – a plan for cooperatively raising the children after the divorce.

COST APPROACH – a set of procedures in which an appraiser derives a value indication by estimating the current cost to reproduce or replace the existing structure, deducting for all accrued depreciation in the property, and adding the estimated land value.

COST BASIS – the purchase price of an asset, used to calculate appreciated value, and upon sale the capital gains tax.

COUNT – a statement of facts that clearly defines the complaint.

COUNSEL FEES PENDENTE LITE, MOTION FOR – a motion by the spouse requesting sufficient funds from the other spouse or the marital estate to prosecute or defend a divorce action.

COUNTERCLAIM – a pleading filed by the defendant (respondent) against the plaintiff ( petitioner ).

COURT APPOINTED BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY – similar to what had been referred to as a guardian ad litem, appointed for the benefit of a minor child, often in custody battle or parental termination action.

COURT CLERK – the administrative personnel of the court who handles the filings for court procedures and answers questions concerning them.

COURT DOCKET – the record of proceedings before the court.

COURT CUSTODY INVESTIGATOR – a person appointed by the court to investigate matters related to children in a divorce action and report to the court.

COURT ORDER – a written document ordering a person to do something. It is issued by a court and signed by a judge.

COURT REPORTER – the person who records testimony during some court proceedings and depositions.

COVENANT – an agreement between to parties, signed and delivered, by which the parties pledge that something shall or shall not be done, or that stipulates that certain facts are true.

COVERTURE – the period of time a party is married.

COVERTURE FRACTION – a mathematical formula used to calculate the percentage of a pension distributed to a noncontributory spouse in a divorce action.

CREDITOR – a person to whom money is owed.

CROSS-EXAMINATION – the questioning of a witness of the opposing party in court or at a deposition. The purpose is to test the credibility or pursue advantageous avenues.

CROSS NOTICE OF MOTION; NOTICE OF CROSS MOTION – a pleading in which the cross-moving party puts the court and other parties on notice that he or she is requesting specific items of judicial relief.

CROSS-PETITION – a statement of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage issued by the respondent. It will be different than that of the petitioner.

CROSS REFERENCE CASE – a separate case involving one parent in common, but in which there are other children from a different mother or father. Either parent can have cross reference cases.

CRUELTY OF TREATMENT – ground for divorce in a fault action requiring the plaintiff to prove physical or emotional harm to himself or herself.

CURABLE DEPRECIATION – items of physical deterioration and functional obsolescence that are economically feasible to cure.

CURTESY – the husband’s common law right to inherit from his wife.

CUSTODIAL PARENT – the parent a child normally lives with, and the one who makes legal decisions concerning the child. There are several different types of custody arrangements. (see child custody section in your state).

CUSTODY – the legal right and responsibility to raise a minor child and to make decisions.

CUSTODY FORENSIC EVALUATION – an evaluation including interviews, psychological testing and home visits undertaken in conjunction with child custody.

CUSTODY – LEGAL – the legal right and responsibility to raise a minor child and to make decisions on her or his behalf. “Joint,” “split,” “and “shared” legal custody require both parents’ approval for all major decisions.

CUSTODY – PHYSICAL – defines the physical location of the child. The parent with whom the child resides is said to have physical or residential custody.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

DAMAGES – the monetary harm caused by the actions of another person.

DEBTOR – a person who owes money.

DECREE – the final decision made on an action for divorce.

DEATH RIGHTS – the rights of inheritance to s spouse’s estate.

DE BENE ESSE — term meaning “as well done,” often used in connection with videotape examination used to preserve sworn testimony for a later date.

DEBT COLLECTION IMPROVEMENT ACT – a 1996 federal act that authorizes the Department of the Treasury to withhold tax refunds to cover delinquent tax refunds to cover delinquent child support.

DEBTOR – one who owes money.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT – the term for a judge’s ruling.

DEADBEAT PARENTS – parents who do not pay their child support.

DEED – a written, legal instrument that conveys an estate or interest in real property when it is executed and delivered. There are numerous types of deeds.

DEED REGISTRY – place in the civil court system where deeds are recorded.

DE FACTO – A Latin term meaning “in fact”; acting in a manner as if complying with what a court might order without such an order being in place.

DE FACTO PARENT – a person who has been found by the court to fulfill the role of a parent, one of provides for a child’s needs for a substantial period of time.

DEFAULT DIVORCE — A form of uncontested divorce in which one spouse never responds to the filing spouse’s complaint.

DEFAULT ORDER OR JUDGMENT – an order or judgment made based on only the plaintiff’s (petitioner’s) complaint, due to no response or presence of the defendant (respondent).

DEFENDANT – the spouse who defends against the lawsuit brought against him or her by the other spouse.

DEFENSE – what a defendant replies in answer to defeat or diminish the allegations of the plaintiff in his or her complaint.

DEFERRED ANNUITY – an income stream that begins at some time in the future.

DEFERRED COMPENSATION PACKAGE – this includes all retirement assets (such as a pension, 401K, IRA) and any other saving or postponed income earned during the marriage.

DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN – generally a retirement annuity, whereby employers set aside benefits for employees, with the employee-spouse entitled to share in the benefits after a vesting period, and payments made a predetermined retirement date for the life of the employee.

DEFINED CONTRIBUTION PLAN – an individual or separate account in the employee-spouse’s name, whereby the worker contributes pretax dollars to his or her account that are matched to a certain amount by the employer’s contribution.

DE JURE – in compliance with an order or judgment.

DEPENDENT – one who relies on another for support, such as a child.

DEPENDENCY EXEMPTION – a sum of money a person can subtract from his or her adjusted gross income for each dependent child he or she claims, as per the guidelines of the I.R.S.

DEPOSITION – the testimony of a witness under oath and reduced to writing. It is also used to question opposing spouse. (see legal process section in your state).

DEPRECIATION – in appraising, a loss in property value from any cause. In regard to improvements, deterioration and Obsolescence. In accounting, an allowance made against the loss in value of an asset for a defined purpose and computed using a specified method.

DESCENDANTS – offspring, children.

DESERTION – one of several grounds for fault divorce in many states.

DIRECT CAPITALIZATION – the capitalization method used to convert an estimate of a single year’s income expectancy or any annual average of several years’ income expectancies into an indication of value in one step, either by dividing the income estimated by an appropriate rate or by multiplying the income estimate by an appropriate factor.

DIRECT EXAMINATION – the initial questioning of a witness called to the stand by an attorney.

DIRECT PAYMENT – child or spousal support paid directly to the parent who has custody by the parent who does not have custody.

DISABILITY BENEFITS – compensation paid workers who become disabled as a result of work or accidents on the job.

DISBARMENT – the official seizing of an attorney’s license to practice law.

DISCIPLINARY RULES – rules applied to lawyers in connection for violations of the Canons of (Legal) Ethics.

DISCHARGEABILITY – refers to the cancellation of debt through bankruptcy.

DISCOUNTING – the procedure used to convert periodic income and reversions into present value: based on the assumption that benefits received in the future are worth less than the same benefits received now.

DISCOVERY – procedures used to absorb information that pertains to the credibility of the opposing party’s case. The term may also be used for the interview procedure between the attorney and the client at the initial meeting. (see legal process and or the attorney section in your state)

DISCRETION OF THE COURT – an area of choice available to a judge to make decisions after reviewing reasonable evidence.

DISINHERIT; DISINHERITANCE – depriving a rightful heir of his or her inheritance.

DISMISS – the termination of a case without a final disposition of the matter.

DISSIPATION OF ASSETS – the wasting of marital assets through extravagant spending, gambling or excessive borrowing or fraudulent conveyance of a third party.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE – a legal judgment that severs a marriage relationship and returns each person to single status.

DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY – the apportionment of marital or community property upon a divorce or legal separation.

DISTRIBUTIVE AWARD – money paid by one spouse to the other compensate him or her for giving up some asset or right, paid in a lump sum or over time.

DIVORCE – a final decree required to legally terminate a valid marriage.

DIVORCE AGREEMENT – another term for the agreement by which spouses divide the marital property and establish child custody and support.

DIVORCE DECREE; DECREE OF DISSOLUTION; JUDGMENT OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE – the court’s final judgment after the interlocutory or nisi period.

DIVORCE STATUTES – a jurisdiction’s legislative laws governing divorce.

DOCKET – the calendar schedule of the court.

DOD – date of divorce.

DOS – date of separation.

DOM – date of marriage.

DOMAL – the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defines marriage as a union of two people of opposite sexes.

DOMESTIC RELATIONS – the field of family law, including divorce, separation, custody, support and adoption.

DOMESTIC RELATIONS ORDER (DRO) – a court order normally used to allocate the interests of divorced people in nonqualified pensions, usually state and municipal, as compared to private retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s.

DOMESTIC TORT – the allegation of wrongful act within a marriage that creates a liability for the defendant.

DOCKET NUMBER – the number assigned by a court to a civil or criminal case. It is used to identify all court actions and it appears on all documents filed with the court in a specific case.

DOMICILE – the place where a person lives and will return if temporarily absent.

DOWER – a wife’s common law right to inherit from her husband.

DOUBLE DIPPING – a term used to describe the alleged unfairness that results when a spouse receives property in equitable distribution that is also counted as a source of income for calculating alimony or support.

DUCES TECUM – a Latin term meaning “bring with you.”

DUE PROCESS – the right of self defense in court in a fair and systematic manner, guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY – an instrument granting another person legal authority to manage the financial affairs and make medical decisions for the principal who is unable to do so.

DURATION – a period of time, particularly the length of a marriage.

DURESS – any unlawful threat or coercion used to induce another person to act or not to act in a manner he or she otherwise would or would not.

DUTY – a legal or moral responsibility, for example, reasonable care in everyday life activities.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

EGREGIOUS FAULT – behavior so improper on the part of a litigant that it is significant enough to have an impact on how a court decides ancillary issues of a divorce, such as finances and custody.

EMANCIPATION – the point at which a minor comes of age. The age is typically 18 or 21.

EMPLOYMENT/EMPLOYEE BENEFITS – fringe benefits provided to an employee.

ENCUMBERED – when a lien, mortgage or other restraint is placed against a property.

ENTIRE CONTROVERSY DOCTRINE – a legal theory that, in some states, requires a litigant to bring all his or her claims from the same series events or with the same parties in one action.

ENTREPRENEURIAL PROFIT – a market – derived figure that represents the amount an entrepreneur expects to receive in addition to costs; the difference between total cost and market value.

EQUITABLE DIVISION (DISTRIBUTION) – a system of dividing property acquired by spouses during their marriage in connection with a divorce proceeding. This is the law of Maryland and DC.

EQUITY – the net proceeds from the sale of a home, minus the fees of the solicitor and the real estate agent and the satisfying of the mortgage.

ERISA – the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law governing private sector employee benefits, including vesting and the administration of certain qualifying retirement plans.

ERRORS AND OMISSIONS – refers to professional liability and malpractice insurance.

ESOP — an employe stock ownership plan.

ESSENTIAL OF MARRIAGE – a material fact or issue pertaining to a marital relationship.

ESTOPPEL – a defense in a legal action.

ESTATE – a right or interest in property or the property of a deceased person.

ET SEQ. – a Latin phrase meaning “and the following.”

ESTATE – a right or interest in property.

EVALUATION – a study of the nature, quality, or unity of a parcel of real estate or interests in, or aspects of, real property, in which a value estimate is not necessarily required.

EVIDENCE – documents, testimony or other informational material offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations in the pleadings.

EXHIBIT – an item of evidence presented to the court.

EX – PARTE – court relief that is granted due to the absence of opposing party.

EXPECTANCY – future proceeds from an estate.

EXPERT WITNESS – a professional used to help a judge reach a decision. Experts can include: Appraisers, Counselors, Evaluators, Accountants.

EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES – not the usual or ordinary costs or expenses.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

FACTORS – elements in case law, court rules or statutes a court must consider before making a decision.

FAIR AND REASONABLE – the judicial standard for approving marital agreements.

FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT (1997) – a federal law that regulates credit bureaus and protects consumers.

FAIR MARKET VALUE – the price a willing buyer pays a willing sell after an arm’s length negotiation.

FAIR VALUE – an appraisal price considered equitable or reasonable.

FAMILY COURT – a court with jurisdiction over child support , divorce and comparable issues. In Maryland, Family Courts are part of the Circuit Court

FATHER’S RIGHTS – legal principles and concepts promoting the idea that custody decisions must not discriminate against fathers.

FAULT – BASED DIVORCE – a type of divorce to be granted if one member of the marriage is guilty of some kind of marital misconduct.

FAULT GROUNDS – include abandonment, adultery, deviant sexual conduct, cruelty, drunkenness, mental illness, imprisonment, sexual desertion, drug addiction and nonsupport.

FEDERAL PREEMPTION – the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and federal law over the state and local law.

FEE ARBITRATION – a procedure in most states for an informal but binding forum to resolve fee disputes between attorneys and clients.

FEE SIMPLE ESTATE – absolute ownership unencumbered by an other interest or estate; subject only to the limitations of eminent domain, escheat, police power, and taxation.

FELONY – a serious crime with a sentence of one year or longer.

FICA – the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, which regulates Social Security benefits and taxes.

FICO SCORE – A mathematical formula invented by Fair Isaac Corp., used to determine the credit worthiness of an individual and appropriate interest rates.

FILE – to personally deliver a document to a clerk of a court so that the document can be included in the official records of a case.

FINAL JUDGMENT – relitigation of a matter as the result of a judge’s decision. It does not become final for purposes of appeal until the expiration of a certain amount of time.

FINANCIAL STATEMENT – a statement of finances used in divorce actions.

FIND; FINDINGS; FINDINGS OF FACT – what the court determines are the facts of the case.

FOREIGN ORDER – a court order issued by another county, state or nation outside of the jurisdiction in which the custodial parent lives.

FORENSIC CUSTODY EVALUATION – a general term sometimes used by a psychologist hired to evaluate a family. The forensic psychologist will state in court which parent they feel should have custody of the child. This is known as a Forensic Custody Evaluation.

FORFEITURE OF ASSETS – a comprehensive term that means a divestiture of specific property without compensation.

FORUM NON CONVENIENS – a term literally meaning an “inconvenient venue.”

FORUM SHOPPING – refers to the practice of shopping for a court in a jurisdiction where a more favorable outcome is likely.

FOUNDATION – the evidence that must be presented before asking certain questions or offering documentary evidence on trial.

FRAUD – a material and intentional misrepresentation, by omission or commission, to induce someone to surrender something of value.

FRAUDULENT CONVEYANCE – the transfer of an asset out of a debtor’s name to keep it from the reach of a creditor.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

GAL – same as Guardian Ad Litem and now referred to as a Best Interest Attorney in Maryland.

GARNISHEE – an insurance company, bank, employer or others upon whom a judgment creditor has placed a Writ of Garnishment because that person or entity holds assets due the original debtor.

GARNISHMENT – a support enforcement technique in which the support payment is automatically deducted from the supporters paycheck and delivered to the spouse. This is an enforcement method of paying support. (Garnishment of Wages).

GENDER BIAS – improper bias for or against a party in an action because of his or her gender.

GENERAL APPEARANCE – a pleading wherein a person submits to the jurisdiction of the court without a defense and without answering the allegations against him.

GET – a Jewish bill of divorcement, granted to the woman from her husband.

GOOD CAUSE – a standard by which a recipient of welfare is excused from cooperating with the CSE agency because by doing so the recipient and the children could be in danger. A good cause finding usually results from ample documentation of violence and abuse by the non-custodial parent.

GOOD FAITH – absence of intent to commit fraud.

GOODWILL – the value of a business that is beyond the market value of any tangible assets. It includes reputation, prestige, and company name.

GRAVE RISK OF HARM – a legal defense against litigation demanding the return of a minor child to his or her habitual residence.

GROSS INCOME – wages, income, earning and interest from all sources before deductions for taxes, alimony, cost of income production and other expenses.

GROUNDS – a legal basis for a divorce.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM – now called a Best Interest Attorney in Maryland is an attorney, appointed by the court, who represents the best interest of a minor child in a divorce. He or she is appointed by the court and will advance their own position at trial.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

HABITUAL RESIDENCE – the place where a person resides – ’as of habit ’ or permanently, for the purposes of the law.

HARDSHIP – the inability of a parent to support his or her children because of a financial strain.

HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD – an income tax filing status for people who are 1) unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year, 2) paid more than half of the upkeep of the household during the year, 3) have a “qualifying” person, such as a student, living there, and 4) do not have a dependent parent living with them.

HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVE; HEALTHCARE PROXY – an instrument setting forth an individual’s wishes about extended medical care in the event of incapacitation.

HEALTH INSURANCE ORDER – a court order that instructs the non – custodial parent to purchase health and dental insurance for the children and to add them to the policy.

HEARING – any proceeding that takes place before a court where testimony is given and arguments are heard.

HEARSAY – something a person claims he or she was told by someone else. Often hearsay cannot be used as evidence in a trial.

HEART BALM STATUTES – laws in nine states that allow for the recovery of some or all of the following causes of action: alienation of affection, criminal conversion, break of promise to marry and seduction.

HEIR – one who inherits by legal right in the case of intestacy.

HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

HOLD HARMLESS – a phrase used to describe an agreement by which one person agrees to assume liability for an obligation and protect another from loss or expense from that obligation.

HOMEMAKER CONTRIBUTIONS – consideration of noneconomic contributions.

HOME STATE – the state where a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six months, or if the child is less than six months old, since birth.

HOSTILE WITNESS – a witness who shows prejudice during testimony that the party who called him or her will actually do a cross – examination.

HYPOTHECATE – to pledge property as collateral in security for a debt or obligation.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

ICARA – the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, an international law that brings about the return of children under the Hague Convention.

IMMUNE ASSETS – property exempt from distribution between spouses in marital dissolution.

IMPANEL JURY – the process by which a court clerk makes a roster of jurors selected by voir dire, a French term meaning “to speak the truth.”

IMPEACHMENT – the act of proving a witness is not credible due to inconsistent statements or other conflicting evidence.

IMPLIED CONTRACT – an equitable remedy whereby a court will find that an implicit understanding exists between two parties has the force of an explicit written agreement.

IMPUTED INCOME – a concept often applied to one or both parents during child support calculations.

IN CAMERA – when preceedings are held in the chambers of a judge without the participating parties. This is usually the procedure followed when children testify.

INCARCERATION – confinement in a prison, usually for a long time.

INCOME AND EXPENSE DECLARATION – the form completed by a parent under oath stating that parent’s income, assets, expenses and liabilities. The document is used to help determine child support to be paid by the non – custodial parent.

INCOMPETENCE – when a party becomes incapable of managing his or her affairs, usually for mental reasons.

INCORPORATION – part of civil law, making one document part of another. For example, the Agreement becomes part of the Decree in Divorce.

INDEMNIFICATION; INDEMNIFY – a guarantee or promise that provides security against loss or damage on account of enumerated debts or obligations or from actions arising from these debts or obligations.

IN GROSS – without deduction or division, for example, alimony, which is paid without deduction of income taxes due from the recipient.

“IN KIND’’ BENEFIT – refers to benefits given in other than money, such as a company-car, housing, clothing, frequent flier miles for employment-related travel.

INHERITANCE; INHERITANCE RIGHTS; INHERITANCE EXPECTANCIES – general terms covering what a child expects to inherit from his parents.

INHERITED PROPERTY – property conveyed from one person to another as an inheritance.

INJUNCTION – a court order preventing someone from doing a particular act which is likely to cause physical, mental injury or property loss of another individual.

IN LOCO PARENTIS – a Latin phrase meaning “in place or in lieu of a parent.”

INNOCENT SPOUSE; INNOCENT SPOUSE RULE – section 434(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code protects an innocent spouse from tax fraud prosecution under certain conditions.

INSURABLE INTEREST – the requisite connection between the one person and another person whose life is insured, as in the case of a financially dependent spouse or former spouse and children in the life of a former spouse.

INSURANCE – agreements that protect against the losses resulting from death or disability.

INTANGIBLE ASSETS – items of personal property; examples; franchises, trademarks, patents, copyrights, goodwill.

INTANGIBLE VALUE – a value that cannot be imputed to any part of the physical property.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY – intangible but valuable.

INTERCEPT – a process by which CSE agencies take part of a noncustodial parent’s unemployment insurance payments, disability insurance payments, income tax returns and lottery gains to pay child support arrearages owed by the noncustodial parent.

INTEREST – a general term meaning a right, claim, title or share of something.

INTENTIONAL TORT – an act committed willfully to create a tort, or a private wrong against another party.

INTER ALIA – a Latin phrase meaning “among other things’’; used frequently in law.

INTERLOCUTORY HEARING – any hearing at which a pretrial or court ruling is requested.

INTERROGATORIES – a group of questions served upon the opposing party to gain knowledge pertaining to the issues in the matrimonial proceedings.

INTERSTATE CUSTODY – when divorced parents live in different states.

INTERSPOUSAL GIFTS – presents and gifts between spouses.

INVENTORY AND APPRAISEMENT – a listing and valuation of properties owned by the parties seeking a divorce.

INTER VIVOS – a Latin phrase meaning “between the living”; used frequently in law.

INTESTATE; LAW OF INTESTACY – said of a person who dies without a will.

INVESTMENT ANALYSIS – a process in which the attractiveness of an investment is measured by analyzing ratios.

IRA – an individual retirement account, which must be “rolled over” in a divorce to avoid a tax penalty.

IRREVOCABLE BENEFICIARY STATUS – a status conferred by irreversible declaration affixing that a person named as a beneficiary of a contract, plan, or shall not be replaced by another.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

JOINDER – the adding of third parties to a legal action.

JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY – describes the liabilities of co-promisors of the same liability when each of them individually has the duty of making good the obligation.

JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY – a form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the responsibilities and major decision-making related to the child. (see child custody section).

JOINT PETITION – used when both parties want the same end of a court action.

JOINT PHYSICAL/RESIDENTIAL CUSTODY – a form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the actual physical custody of the child. (see child custody section in your state).

JOINT PROPERTY – property that is held in the name of more than one person.

JOINT TENANCY – a form of joint ownership in which each joint owner has an equal share.

JUDGMENT – the ruling or order of the court.

JUDGMENT OF DIVORCE – a formal written document that states that a couple are divorced. This is often prepared by an attorney and presented to the court for the Judge to sign. In some states and provinces, this is recognized a the Divorce Decree or Decree of Dissolution.

JURAT – the short clause at the close of an official paper indicating when, where, and before whom the document was sworn.

JURISDICTION – the power of the court to rule on issues related to the parties, their children and their property.

JURY TRIAL – a case that is argued before a jury who decide the facts and the merits of the claim.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

KEOGH – a kind of retirement account for self-employed individuals.

KITCHEN SINK STATES – jurisdictions that include separate property in the marital estate and treat such property as eligible for distribution in a divorce.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

LACHES – a defense from a claimant who has waited too long to bring his or her claim to court, resulting in a refusal of the court to grant relief.

LATENT – concealed, hidden, such as a tax liability.

LEASE – a written document in which the rights to use an occupancy of land or structures are transferred by the owner to another for a specific period of time in return for a specified rent.

LEASED FEE ESTATE – an ownership interest held by a landlord with the right of use and occupancy conveyed by lease to others: usually consists of the right to receive rent and the right to repossession at the termination of the lease.

LEASEHOLD ESTATE – the right to use and occupy real estate for a stated term and under certain conditions: conveyed by a lease.

LEGAL ASSISTANT – a staff member in a law firm or office who performs certain tasks but does not have the training of a paralegal.

LEGAL CAPTION – identifies the type of court action, the title of the action, the docket number, the pleader and the parties.

LEGAL CAUSATION – a legal or moral duty due the claimant, which must be breached and is the cause of injury or damage he or she sustained.

LEGAL CUSTODY – the authority of one parent or both parents to make legal decisions regarding health, education and welfare of the child.

LETTERS OF CREDIT – a line of credit with a bank or financial institution.

LEVERAGE FACTORS – considerations made by each parties pertaining to the issues that are being disputed.

LIABILITY – being responsible for an act or a result, such as a debt.

LIABILITY INSURANCE – indemnification insurance that protects the insured from financial loss for his or her unintentional acts or actions.

LIEN – an encumbrance put on a property owned by a judgment debtor. It prevents the sale, transfer of title or refinancing of the property until the debt is satisfied.

LIQUIDATION VALUE – the price that an owner is compelled to accept when a property must be sold without reasonable market exposure.

LIS PENDENS – a Latin term meaning “a pending suit.”

LITIGATION – the process of fighting a legal dispute in the court system.

LIVING WILL – an instrument setting forth a person’s wishes in regard to long-term medical care in the event of incapacitation.

LONG ARM – the means by which a court can get jurisdiction over someone who lives outside the jurisdiction in which the court is located.

LUMP – SUM ALIMONY – a spousal support that is ordered to be paid in a fixed amount. The completion of the payment may be made in installments. (see spousal support section).

LUMP-SUM SETTLEMENT – a one-time settlement as opposed to a series of payments over time, or an installment or structured settlement.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

MAJORITY – refers to legal age and varies from state to state; commonly eighteen to twenty-one.

MAGISTRATE – a person who performs the functions of a judge but does not have the power to issue a court order. Judges sometimes pass work, hearings and trials, to magistrates or masters who then in turn make recommendations to the judge as to the particulars of the case.

MAINTENANCE – the same as spousal support or alimony.

MALPRACTICE (LEGAL) -improper or incompetent behavior by an attorney.

MANDATORY FACTORS (TO BE CONSIDERED BY THE COURT) – the factors a court must consider before making a final decision about property, child support and alimony.

MANDATORY SELF-DISCLOSURE – a court rule requiring that the parties in suit make financial disclosures to one another within a certain period after the suit has begun.

MARITAL ASSETS, PROPERTY, ESTATE – property that is acquired by the spouses during the marriage.

MARITAL FAULT – a necessary element in a fault divorce.

MARITAL HOME – the house that a marriage made into a habit of the heart and a state of mind.

MARITAL PORTION – a share of a pension accrued during a marriage, including inflation protection.

MARITAL TORT – a tort action between spouses.

MARITAL PROPERTY – property that is acquired by the spouses during the marriage. It typically does not include any property owned prior to marriage.

MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT – a written agreement entered into by the spouses getting divorced stating their rights and agreements pertaining to property, support and custody.

MARKETABILITY DISCOUNT – a term used to reflect the lack of liquidity in a party’s interest in a private business.

MARKET ANALYSIS – a study conducted by a real estate broker, not an appraiser, showing the value of a particular piece of real estate by comparing it with a comparable piece of real estate recently sold.

MARKETABLE TITLE – a title not subject to reasonable doubt or suspicion of invalidity in the mind of a reasonable and intelligent person: one which a prudent person guided by competent legal advice would be willing to accept and purchase at market value.

MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE – the official certification of a marriage.

MARRIED FILING JOINTLY – a tax filing status for married people that creates joint and several liability.

MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY – a tax filing status for married people that does not create joint and several liability but creates special rules for married filers in community property states.

MASTER – a court appointed individual, usually an attorney, who assists the court in moving a case forward. Now called Magistrates in Maryland.

MATERIAL FACT – important act, event or truth.

MATERNAL PREFERENCE – the tendency of twentieth century courts to award children to the mother. This has been abolished in Maryland and DC.

MEDIATION – a non – adversarial divorce procedure where the spouses are assisted in reaching a settlement by a neutral third party that is trained in the divorce process.

MEDIATOR – a neutral person who presides over the mediation process.

MEDICAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT (MSA) – a special tax-free account to pay for medical costs incurred under special low-cost, high-deductible medical insurance policies.

MEDICARE – a national medical insurance program that is part of the Social Security Act, covering medical, hospital and drugs for older people.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW – a legal document filed with pleadings and court papers setting forth research in support of a request of the court.

MILITARY ALLOTMENT – a deduction from child support from the salary of a noncustodial parent on active duty in the United States military.

MILITARY DIVORCE – a divorce involving an member of the uniformed services and his or her spouse, who may or may not be in the military.

MINORITY – being under the age of majority.

MINORITY DISCOUNT – applied sometimes to valuing a private business and reflecting the lack of control of a minority shareholder or owner.

MISDEMEANOR – an offense less serious than a felony, usually punishable by a fine or less than a year in prison.

MISREPRESENTATION – intentional deceit, by speech or actions, to the detriment of another.

MISTRIAL – a trial that is terminated due to some kind of error that would declare the trial invalid.

MODIFICATION – an order changing the terms of another order.

MONETARY DAMAGES – a cash award by a court to a plaintiff to compensate him or her for loss, damage or injury sustained as a result of the defendant’s misconduct.

MORTGAGE – a written statement by the owner, who is called the mortgagor, to the lender, who is called the mortgagee, giving the lender an interest in the property — the land and improvements — to assure repayment of the debt.

MOTION – a written or oral request to the court for some type of action.

MOTION TO MODIFY – a written request of the court to change a previous order regarding child custody, support, alimony or other divorce – related decisions.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN (NCMEC) – works with parents and police in locating and preventing the exploitation of children.

NECESSARIES – the common law doctrine that if a person fails to support another to whom he has a duty to support, he or she becomes liable to the third parties who provide the necessaries, such as a grocer.

NEGLIGENCE – a term applied to a person whose carelessness or lack of attention fails to square with the assumed level of care that a person is assumed to have.

NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT; NEGOTIATED AGREEMENT – when the parties, usually with counsel, develop a separation agreement that is not mediated or arbitrated.

NESTING – a temporary custody arrangement whereby the child remains in the marital home and the parents, each in turn and on a weekly or monthly schedule, make the house his or her residence.

NO-FAULT DIVORCE – a type of divorce that may be granted even though either spouse has not performed any kind of marital misconduct.

NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT – the parent who does not have physical custody of the child, and who typically is paying child support to the child.

NON-MARITAL PROPERTY – property considered by the courts to belong to one spouse or another and that which is not available for equitable distribution.

NONQUALIFIED PLAN – an employment or retirement plan not regulated by ERISA, including many deferred pay plans such as ESOPs, stock options and other future-based compensation plans.

NOTICE TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTS – a vehicle used in discovery, it is a request to produce documents.

NOTICE TO TAKE (ORAL) DEPOSITION – a request for the other party to appear at a specific place and time for an oral examination under oath.

NULLITY – a decree indicating that a marriage is null and void.

NUNC PRO TUNC – a Latin term meaning “for now for then.”

NUPTIAL – of or pertaining to marriage.

– Maryland Divorce Family Law Dictionary

OBJECTION – the verbal response of a lawyer when something inappropriate is happening during a trial or deposition. It is one of many steps involved in protecting the record.

OBLIGEE – the person to whom money or property is owed by a judgment.

OBLIGOR – the person who owes money or property as the result of a judgment.

OBSOLESCENCE – one of the causes of depreciation: an impairment of desirability and usefulness caused by new inventions, current changes in design, improved processes of production, or external factors that make property less desirable and valuable for continued use.

OMITTED PROPERTY – property no included in a settlement.

ONLINE DIVORCE – a method of getting a divorce, in which a software and/or a web-based (on-line) service helps divorcing spouses complete and prepare divorce papers, forms, and/or documents for filing with the court.

OPENING STATEMENT – a lawyer’s opening remarks in the beginning of a trial. They are addressed to the judge.

OPERATION OF LAW – the way the law works.

OPINION – a belief held by a person. In court, a witness is restricted to stating facts and are not permitted to given an opinion. They can, however, express an opinion if they are qualified as an expert witness.

ORAL ARGUMENT – a court appearance when counsel debate the merits of a matter, such as order to show cause, motions.

ORDER – a court’s specific ruling on a disputed issue.

ORDER AFTER HEARING – a written order issued after a hearing and signed by a judge.

ORDER OF EXAMINATION – a court proceeding during which a judgment debtor is questioned about his or her assets. The questioning is done under oath.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE – a court order requiring a party to a civil action to appear in court on a specific date and time. This is scheduled to explain why the court should not take a particular action in the case.

ORDINARY EXPENSES – costs and expenses for necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.


PALIMONY – support paid from one person to another even though they were never married. This is an outdated concept

PARALEGAL – a trained person who assists a lawyer.

PARENS PATRIAE – a doctrine whereby the state takes jurisdiction over a minor living within its border. It is the basis for deciding what state will assume jurisdiction in a child custody case.

PARENT COORDINATOR – usually a mental health professional selected by the parents or the court to act as an out-of-court decision maker on child custody and visitation issues. This can sometimes also be performed by a lawyer.

PARENTAGE – the relationship between a parent and a child.

PARENTAGE ACTS – laws in most states that permit a child, up to five years after attains a majority, to sue his or her parent or estates to establish a blood relationship.

PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME (PAS) – a theory that some parents intentionally cause the breakdown in a child’s relationship with the other parent.

PARENTAL KIDNAPPING – the act of one parent illegally taking a child in violation of a court order.

PARENTING CLASSES – organized classes designed to teach parents how to minimize the negative aspects of divorce on their children.

PARENTING SCHEDULE or PARENTING PLAN – terms used by courts since the mid-1990s in lieu of custody and visitation, referring to parents’ time with minor children or sharing custodial rights and responsibilities.

PARENTING TIME – phrase used in place of visitation.

PARTY – a plaintiff or a defendant in a legal proceeding.

PASSIVE ASSET – real or personal property, both tangible or intangible, that increases or decreases in fair market value because of forces like supply and demand, as opposed to active forces, such as performance or conduct.

PASSIVE APPRECIATION – an increase in the value of an asset as a result of changes in the market.

PATERNITY – the legal biological relationship between father and child.

PATERNITY ESTABLISHMENT – the determination of the court or voluntary acknowledgment, usually by a signed declaration of paternity, that the man is the father of the child.

PATERNITY TEST – a scientific means by which the identify of a child’s father is established.

PAYEE – a person to whom a debt is owed.

PAYOR – a person who owes a debt.

PENDENTE LITE – Latin for “during the litigation.”

PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTY CORPORATION (PBGC) – a federal surety for qualified pension plans.

PENSION PLAN – an account or annuity or deferred payment program for employes who leave the company or retire.

PENSION VALUATION – the determination of a pension value by either the accrued method or the projected benefit method.

PENUMBRA – a Latin phrase meaning “under the shadow of light.”

PERJURY – the act of lying under oath in court.

PERSONAL GUARANTOR – a party who assures surety for a personal liability.

PERSONAL JURISDICTION – the power of the court to make orders regarding an individual and have them enforced.

PERSONAL PROPERTY – property that is not real estate.

PETITION – the title given to the first document filed in pursuit of a divorce.

PETITIONER – the person who initiates the divorce by filing the petition.

PHYSICAL CUSTODY – it is in reference to the parent with whom the child resides. Depending upon arrangements, it may be joint or sole custody.

PKPA -the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980, a federal act.

PLAINTIFF – the individual who files the divorce petition, thereby initiating the divorce.

PLEADING – a formal written application to the court which requests action by the court.

PLENARY HEARING – a comprehensive proceeding that happens either before or after a trial.

POSTJUDGMENT LITIGATION – motion based litigation that follows a final judgment by a court.

POSTNUPTIAL – a written contract between husband and wife that states all of their present and future rights in view of their impending divorce.

POWER OF ATTORNEY – a legal instrument by which a person, who is called the principal, to act as his legal agent.

PRAECIPE – an order asking the court to act. It is addressed to the clerk of court.

PRAYER – the portion at the end of the pleading which states the relief that is requested of the court.

PRECEDENT – something that has already happened that will influence how future similar events will be viewed by the court.

PREEMPTION – a term used to describe the trumping of federal over state law.

PRELIMINARY HEARING – any court proceeding prior to a trial.

PRELIMINARY RELIEF – relief granted early on as part of a larger action that follows it.

PREMARITAL ASSETS – assets acquired by one spouse prior to a marriage.

PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT – a legal contract signed by two people before they get married. It typically involves limitations on a spouse’s rights to property, support, and inheritance upon divorce.

PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE – a standard of proof in a civil action, meaning the degree of difficulty facing a litigant in proving his or her case.

PRESENT VALUE – the value of a future payment or series of future payments discounted to the current date or to time period zero.

PRIMARY CARETAKER – the parent who provides majority of the child’s day to day care.

PRIVILEGE – the right a spouse has to make admissions to an attorney or counselor that can not be later used as evidence.

PRO SE DIVORCE – a divorce in which each spouse represents themselves in court without an attorney.

PRESUMPTION – a legal fiction that is used in certain cases, one which is rebuttable or refutable only by clear and convincing evidence that it is false.

PRETRIAL CONFERENCE – a meeting of the parties with a judge before the trial.

PRETRIAL PROCEDURE – spade work done after a suit is filed but before a trial, including discovery, pleadings, and the preparation of adjudication.

PRIMARY CARETAKER – the parent who provides majority of the child’s day-to-day care.

PRIMARY RESIDENCE – a person’s principal residence.

PRIVILEGE – in tort law, the ability to act contrary to another’s legal right without that party having legal redress.

PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS – the right a spouse has to make admissions to an attorney or counselor that cannot be later used as evidence.

PROBATE; PROBATE COURT – the legal process of administrating decedent’s estate and the court where it happens.

PRO BONO – a Latin term meaning for the public good, as when a lawyer takes a case without compensation.

PROCESS – the giving of notice of a legal action.

PRO SE DIVORCE – a divorce in which each spouse represents himself or herself in court without a lawyer.

PROPERTY AGREEMENT – same as property agreement, agreement, marital settlement agreement, marital agreement.

PROPOSED FINDINGS; PROPOSED ORDERS – a document prepared by counsel setting forth a party’s best case scenario about the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

PROXIMATE CAUSE – the immediate or efficient cause of a legal action.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION – includes interviews by mental health professionals with persons, parents and children involved in a custody dispute.

PUBLIC RECORDS – records and information in any form in the public domain and open to inspection.

PUNITIVE DAMAGES – a money award to a plaintiff that also punishes the defendant for his egregiously bad behavior.

PURPOSE OF AN APPRAISAL – the states scope of an appraisal assignment, i.e., to estimate a defined value of any real property interest, or to conduct an evaluation study pertaining to real property decisions.

PUTATIVE – reputed, believed, accepted.


QUASH – cancel or limit the scope of a procedure, such as discovery.

QUALIFIED DOMESTIC RELATIONS ORDER – (QDRO) a court ruling stating that a portion of one spouse’s pension be awarded to the other spouse as part of the equitable distribution of the marital assets. ( see QDRO section in your state).

QUALIFIED MEDICAL CHILD SUPPORT ORDER (QMCSO) – a court ruling providing continued and uninterrupted medical insurance coverage of the child of the insured parent as a part of the final decree in a divorce.

QUALIFIED (RETIREMENT) PLAN – a retirement plan that meets criteria set forth in ERISA and the I.R.C.

QUANTITY – in divorce usage, the sum as opposed to the duration of alimony.

QUANTUM MERUIT – a Latin term meaning “as much as deserved.

QUIT CLAIM – to release legal claim. It is a document relinquishing claim, as in a quit claim to the deed to the marital house.


RATIFY – To confirm or make valid.

RANGE OF VALUE – the range, or confidence interval, in which the final estimate of a property’s value may lie.

REAL ESTATE – physical land and appurtenances affixed to the land: land.

REAL PROPERTY – all interests, benefits, and rights inherent in the ownership of physical real estate.

REALTY TRANSFER TAX – a state or local levy imposed in some jurisdictions upon the sale or transfer of real estate.

REBUTTAL – an introduction of evidence in response to a matter raised by the opposing party.

RECAPTURE – refers to the rises ability to capture taxes on income distributed as part of a divorce agreement.

RECIPROCITY – the process of cooperation between states and countries to establish and enforce child support orders. Laws and court orders of each jurisdiction are recognized and enforced.

RECORD – all of the testimony and evidence that is used in court to decide a case. What is on record is what the Judge will use to make his or her decision.

RECRIMINATION – the counterclaim, for example, when both parties in a divorce allege adultery.

RECROSS – the second round of cross – examination that occurs after redirect in a trial.

RECUSAL – the disqualification of a judge because of bias or prejudice.

REDIRECT – the second round of direct examination that occurs in the trial after cross-examination.

REFINANCE – the renegotiation of the terms and conditions of debt.

REGISTRY – the entity through which the court receives and disburses money, as in child support payments.

REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY – alimony intended to help the exspouse become financial self sufficient.

REIMBURSEMENT – a fixed amount stated in a judgment which would order the defendant to pay back to the government welfare which the government paid on behalf of the child.

RELEASE – a document that frees up a person’s right or claimed right to something. It is usually given in exchange for something else, typically another release or money.

RELIEF – assistance, compensation, mitigation from a court or agency.

RELIEVED AS COUNSEL – the court’s approval of the withdrawal of an attorney from representation.

RELIGIOUS ANNULMENT – a decree from a religious body judging a marriage null and void.

RELIGIOUS DIVORCE – a nonsecular dissolution of a marriage by a religious body or ecclesiastical court.

RELOCATION (REMOVAL) OF A MINOR CHILD – a legal action, usually brought about by complaint or petition, by the custodial parent to move (or remove) a minor child from a state.

REMAND – the act of sending a case back to the judge to be retried because of a significant mistake made by the judge during the first trial.

REPLACEMENT COST – the estimated cost of construct, at current prices, a building with utility equivalent to the building being appraised, using modern materials and current standards, design, and layout, and quality of workmanship, and embodying all the subject’s deficiencies, superadquacies, and obsolescence.

REPRODUCTION COST – the estimated cost to construct, at current prices, a building with utility equivalent to the building being appraised, using modern materials and current standards, design, and layout, and quality of workmanship, and embodying all the subject’s deficiencies, superadquacies, and obsolescence.

REQUEST FOR ADMISSIONS – a type of discovery in which a party is asked to answer questions yes or no.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION – part of the Discovery process. One attorney asks that the other side produce financial documents he or she feels are necessary to the case.

RES JUDICATA – a Latin term meaning “thing adjudged.”

RESIDENCE – the place where a spouse lives.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT – the length of time a person must live in a state before becoming eligible to file for divorce there.

RESPONDENT – the defendant in a divorce.

RESPONSE – the formal document filed by the defendant (respondent) to answer the complaint or summons.

RETAINER – a fee paid to an attorney to work on a case.

RETAINER AGREEMENT – a written contract between lawyer and client delineating their responsibilities to each other.

RETIREMENT – generally, the years after a person’s career occupation ends and he or she stops working full time or works on a reduced schedule.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS – individual, professional, tax-sheltered or tax-deferred accounts such as IRAs, SEPs, Keoghs, ESOPs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457s.

RETIREMENT BENEFITS – compensation paid an employee after his or her working years are finished.

RETROACTIVE RELIEF – backward reaching mitigation, aid, or assistance.

RETURN DATE – a future date when a court hears arguments on motions, cross motions and orders to show cause after the parties have received appropriate notice.

REVERSAL – an action taken by an appeals court when it decides a lower court’s decision and judgment is flawed.

RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP – the right of joint owners to receive the other’s share of property upon the death of the other owner.

RULES OF EVIDENCE – the rules that pertain to the deliverance of evidence in hearings or depositions.

RURESA – Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, an act facilitating interstate enforcement of support orders.


SAFE HAVEN FOR CHILDREN – a federal program to make grants to states, units of government, and Indian tribal governments to work with nonprofit agencies to provide safe visitation for children in troubled domestic situations.

SAFE HOUSE – a residence in an undisclosed location where victims of abuse and minor children may live safe from the abuser.

SALES COMPARISON APPROACH – a set of procedures in which an appraiser derives a value indication by comparing the property being appraised to similar properties that have been sold recently, applying appropriate units of comparison, and making adjustments, based on the elements of comparison, to the sale prices of the comparables.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE – legally recognized marriage between two men or two woman.

SANCTIONS – court-ordered punishment.

SCOPE OF CONSENT – the parameters of a plaintiff’s permission, used by a court to analyze a defendant’s claim of privilege, which is a defense in tort and marital tort actions.

SECRETION OF ASSETS – the hiding of assets.

SELF-INCRIMINATION; THE RIGHT AGAINST – the right of the accused not to admit his or her criminal wrongdoing.

SEPARATE MAINTENANCE – an action filed for support between two spouses not living together even though the spouse’s are not actively seeking a divorce.

SEPARATE PROPERTY – property considered to be owned by one spouse prior to marriage, which in most states in not up for distribution upon divorce.

SEPARATION – when spouses no long co – habitate or live together.

SEPARATION AGREEMENT – an agreement on support, child care and property covering the period before divorce but after separation.

SERVICE OF PROCESS – the act of presenting the complaint or summons to the defendant or respondent.

SET ASIDE – to cancel, annul, or revoke a prior judgment of a court.

SETOFF – a debt or financial obligation of one spouse that the court weighs against a debt or financial obligation of the other spouse.

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT – the written version of the settlement.

SEVERABILITY – the understanding that one clause in a contract is independent of the others.

SEVERANCE PAY – compensation paid an employee, often when he or she is involuntarily terminated by an employer.

SHARED CUSTODY – custody shared by divorced parents.

SINGLE – filing status for unmarried people.

SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES – usually refers to female head of household families following the breakup of a marriage.

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS – a variety of benefits paid under the Social Security Act, providing insurance in old age, for survivors and in the event of disability.

SOLDIER AND SAILORS CIVIL RELIEF ACT OF 1940 (SSCRA) – a federal law governing (and protecting) military personnel from certain a pplications of civil law.

SOLE CUSTODY – a form of custody in which one parent is awarded both physical and legal custody.

SOURCE OF FUNDS – comes into play when a single asset has both marital and separate interests.

SPECIAL ADVOCATE – a special advocate appointed to a court to handle matters pertaining to children in cases of child abuse and neglect.

SPECIAL MASTER – a court-appointed individual, usually an attorney, who assists the court in moving a case forward.

SPECIAL SEPARATION BENEFITS (SSB) – a particular kind of military retirement benefit.

SPLIT CUSTODY – a form of custody in which the actual time of physical custody is split between both parents, which gives both parents the right to make decisions.

SPOUSAL ABUSE – mental, physical and emotional harm inflicted by one spouse on the other.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT – money paid from one spouse to the other in one lump sum or in installments for a period of time. There are many factors considered. (see spousal support section in your state).

SPOUSAL LIABILITY – a term used by the I.R.S. that means that one spouse is responsible for the tax liabilities of the other under the doctrine of joint and several liability.

SPOUSAL SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS – monthly cash payments to which a spouse, or former spouse, is entitled under the Social Security Act on account of the work history of the other spouse, and in the case of marital dissolution, the duration of the marriage.

SPOUSAL SURVIVORSHIP BENEFITS – the rights and interests of a surviving widow or widower, including the surviving former spouse, available under deferred pay plans upon the spouse’s death, either before or after reaching retirement age.

SPOUSE – husband or wife.

SSIP – stock and/or savings plan, a retirement/employment benefit.

STALKING – persistent and bothersome behavior of a rejected partner who cannot accept the end of a relationship.

STANDARD OF CARE – the test a court uses to determine whether or not a party acted negligently.

STANDARD OF EVIDENCE/PROOF – the test required to meet certain levels of proof, such as beyond a reasonable doubt, clear and convincing, preponderance of evidence.

STANDARD OF LIVING – the level of expenses — the so-called “lifestyle” — enjoyed by a couple during their marriage.

STARE DECISIS – a Latin term meaning “to stay with decided cases.”

STATE COURT – in the United States, courts established by the states and operating under state law, as opposed to federal courts.

STATUS CONFERENCE – a meeting with the judge before the trial to update the court on any progress the parties may have made in resolving issues.

STATUS QUO – a Latin term meaning “state in which.”

STATUTE – legislative law.

STATUTE OP LIMITATIONS – a term referring the period of time in which a claimant may file an action.

STAY; STAY THE PROCEEDINGS; STAY OF EXECUTION – the stopping a judicial proceeding, as in a court order.

STAY-AWAY ORDER – a court order requiring a party to stay away from another person.

STEPCHILDREN – children of a prior union who reside with one parent after his or her subsequent marriage to a new spouse.

STIPULATION – an agreement between the parties or their counsel.

STOCKS AND SECURITIES – an ownership interest in a company.

STRIKE; MOTION TO STRIKE – the removal from the record and docket of material found to be irrelevant, scandalous, or without proper notice.

STOCK OPTIONS – an asset or property interest that is divisible between divorcing spouses.

STRUCTURED SETTLEMENT – a series of smaller payments paid over time, as opposed to a lump-sum payment.

SUBCHAPTER S CORPORATION – a small business corporation that may decide to tax its undistributed income at regular income tax rates and thus avoid corporate income tax.

SUBPOENA – a document that is delivered to a person who is not directly involved in the action filed, but is in need for testimony.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM – a court order to produce documents as part of a discovery; subpoena duces tecum means “bring with you.”

SUBPOENA AD TESTIFICANDUM – s court order requiring a person to testify at a trial or give testimony at a deposition.

SUBSTITUTED SERVICE OF PROCESS – service of process to an attorney of record, not the defendant.

SUBSTITUTION OF AN ATTORNEY – a special pleading by which a court confirms a party’s change in legal representation.

SUCCESS FEE – a fee added to a lawyer’s hourly billings based on his or her appraisal of his or her performance in a legal action.

SUIT – same as an action, a lawsuit.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT – a procedural rule that allows judges to enter judgments without a trial, generally used when questions of law, not fact, are at issue.

SUMMATION – the closing argument, the final address given to the court by an attorney after the parties have rested and presented their respective cases.

SUMMONS – a written notification to the defendant or respondent that an action has been filed against him or her.

SUPPORT – payment for housing, food, clothing etc.

SURREBUTAL – evidence the defendant can present to counter rebuttal evidence.

SURVIVING AGREEMENT – an agreement said to be unmodifiable.

SURVIVORSHIP BENEFIT PLAN (SBP) – a deferred pay plan paying survivorship benefits to a remaining spouse or former spouse after the death of the member spouse.


TAINTING/COMINGLING – in divorce actions, when a nonmarital or separate asset becomes marital property and subject to distribution by commingling or adding the other spouse’s name to the title.

TAX CREDIT – an off-set — such the child care credit — against other taxes a taxpayer owes.

TAX DEDUCTION – a subtraction from revenues to be taxed, such as the tax deductions for charitable contributions and business expenses.

TAX FORM 1040 – the I.R.S. form for reporting individual income.

TAX FORM 1099 – the I.R.S. form given an independent contractor reflecting his or her income for a given project.

TAX FORM W-2 – the I.R.S. form given employees by their employer reporting gross wages, deductions and taxes withheld.

TAX INTERCEPT – the process by which a child support judgment debtor’s federal and state income tax refunds are diverted to pay a support arrearage.

TAX RETURN SCHEDULES – a series of separate sheets filed with a form 1040 reflecting income expenses or losses from certain classes of assets or business activities.

TAX SHELTER – the name given to lawful schemes by which taxpayers protect income from immediate taxation.

TEMPORARY CUSTODY – a spouse’s right to have parenting time with his or her child. It includes extended stays and overnights.

TEMPORARY PROTECTIVE ORDER – an order of the court prohibiting a party from acting – for example, threatening, harassing, or physically abusing the other spouse and/or the children.

TEMPORARY SUPPORT – an interlocutory order of support entered before the trial, issued while a case is pending.

TENANCY BY THE ENTIRETY – a form of joint tenancy and ownership of property reserved for married people, which includes the right of survivorship.

TENANTS IN COMMON – a form of ownership in which owners share possession, without the right of survivorship.

TESTATE – dying with a will.

TESTIMONY – statements delivered under oath at a hearing or deposition.

THIRD PARTIES – individuals, besides the husband and wife, who become parties in a divorce action.

TIME STANDARDS – court rules setting deadlines for the completion of certain phases of litigation, such as discovery and pretrial conferences.

TOLLING – an artificial stop in time, so that the statute of limitation does not expire and thus prohibit litigation.

TORT; MARITAL TORT; DOMESTIC TORT – a wrongful act that creates the basis for liability against a defendant, who is called the tortfeasor.

TRACING – what courts do to identify separate and marital property.

TRADITIONAL VISITATION – in some states, when the noncustodial parent has less than the equivalent of two or more overnights with the child each week.

TRANSCRIPT – a written presentation of testimony given at a trial or at a deposition.

TRANSFER – to switch ownership from one person to another.

TRANSITIONAL CHILDCARE – a welfare program by which welfare recipients who stop receiving AFDC due to employment, but who can’t afford to pay childcare costs, receive subsidized childcare assistance, usually for one year.

TRIAL – a formal court hearing to decide the disputed issues filed in the complaint or summons.

TRIAL MEMORANDUM; PRETRIAL MEMORANDUM – a presentation to the court, setting forth each side’s theory of the case, goals and justifications.

TRIAL SEPARATION – when a couple lives apart trying to decide whether to reconcile or divorce.

TRUSTS – instruments for distributing wealth by means other than outright bequests to beneficiaries.


UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE (UCC) – one of the uniform laws drafted by the NCCUSL and the ALI governing commercial transactions.

UCCJEA – the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a uniform law regarding custody and visitation for parties from different states.

UIFSA – the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, a new uniform law regarding child support and alimony for parties from different states.

UNIFORM PARENTAGE ACT of 2000 (UPA) – deals with new reproductive technologies and the problems caused by the late discovery of paternity.

UNCONTESTED DIVORCE – a divorce proceed in which there are no disputes.

UNCONSCIONABLE – used in contract law, refers to an agreement that is so grossly unfair as to be oppressive and unenforceable.

UNEXERCISED INTEREST – refers to the a right — for example, in stock options — which has not been exercised.

UNIFORM MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE ACT (UMDA) – an act that standardizes divorce protocols, including a provision that mandates that the terms and conditions of a separation agreement and divorce decree dealing with the division of property are enforceable by contempt.

UNIFORM PARENTAGE ACT OF 2000 – consolidated and revised the Uniform Parentage Act of 1973, the Uniform Putative and Unknown Father Act of 1988 and the Uniform Status of Children of Assisted Conception Act of 1988 into a single act of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

UNIFORM PREMARITAL AGREEMENT ACT – establishes terms and conditions for premarital agreements.

UNIFORMED SERVICES FORMER SPOUSES PROTECTION ACT (USFSPA) – a Federal law providing specified rights and privileges to the civil marital partners in the armed forces.

UNVESTED INTEREST – refers to, in the case of stock options, the right of an employee to earn options, usually after a period of time with a company.

URESA(Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act) – the statute which enables one state to request assistance from another state in establishing or enforcing a child support order against a parent located in the other state.

U.S.C.A. – the United States Code Annotated, the official laws of the United States.


VAWA – Violence Against Women Acts of 1994 and 2000.

VACATE – to set aside.

VACATE THE MARITAL HOME, MOTION TO – a motion to the court requiring that one party (usually the husband) be forced to leave the marital home.

VACATING ORDER – a court order terminating or rescinding a prior order, such as a stay-away order.

VALUATION DATE – the date an asset is appraised for divorce purposes.

VALUATION PROCESS – a systematic procedure employed to provide the answer to a client’s question about real property value.

VENUE – the county in which the court with jurisdiction will hear the matter.

VERIFICATION STATEMENT – an oath stating that the information in a document is true.

VESTED INTEREST – a term used to describe the equity a person has in certain assets.

VIATICAL VALUE – the value of a term life insurance policy that is sold to a third party.

VISITATION – the right of the parent who does not have physical custody to see his or her child.

VISITATION SCHEDULE – a list of dates stating times each parent may see each child.

VISITATION RIGHTS – settled and court-ordered privileges granting the noncustodial parent, grandparent or interested third parties the right to visit a child at fixed times and dates and for a fixed duration.

VOCATIONAL ASSESSMENT/EVALUATION – a court ordered examination of a person’s skills, talents and competence, designed to investigate the basis of his or her claim of unemployability.

VOID MARRIAGE – a marriage nullified ab initio.

VOIDABLE MARRIAGE – a marriage nullified nunc pro tunc.

VOLUNTARY ACKNOWLEDGMENT – the act of a man who signs a written declaration that he is the father of a child.

VOLUNTARY SEPARATION INCENTIVE (VSI) – a particular kind of military retirement benefit.


WAGE ASSIGNMENT OR WAGE WITHHOLDING – a court order requiring the employer of a noncustodial parent to deduct a specific amount of money for child support from the wages of the noncustodial parent (also known as garnishment).

WARRANTY DEED – a deed which promises that the seller has clear and unencumbered title to the property.

WAIVER – a written document that relinquishes an individual’s rights.

WELFARE – popular name for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

WIRETAPPING – improperly and illegal monitoring and recording telephone conversations.

WITH PREJUDICE – refers to something decided, ordered, adjudged, without the opportunity to refile.

WITNESS – a person having knowledge of facts or other information pertaining to a specific situation.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE – refers to something decided, ordered, adjudged, but settled in a way the parties may refile.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION – fixed awards paid to workers or their dependents in compensation for employment-related accidents or illnesses.

WRIT OF EXECUTION – a court order authorizing the seizure of an asset of a noncustodial parent who owes past due child support. The order usually authorizes the seizure of assets up to the total amount of past due child support owed under the judgment. It is also know as a levy.

WRIT NE EXEAT (ARREST) – an arrest warrant used in emergencies.

WRONGFUL REMOVAL OR RETENTION (of a minor child) – the breach or violation of the other parent’s custody rights under the laws where the child is a habitual resident.


YIELD CAPITALIZATION – a capitalization method used to convert future benefits to present value by discounting each future benefit at an appropriate yield rate or by developing an overall rate that reflects the investment’s income pattern, value change, and yield rate.