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P – Washington DC Family Law Dictionary


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 This is an outdated concept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.