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Glossary

Alimony
Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse during separation or following divorce. Also called spousal support or spousal maintenance.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
Methods of resolving legal disputes without going to trial, in a less adversarial manner, such as through arbitration or mediation.

Arrearage
The amount of money that is past due for child or spousal support.

Child support
Money that a non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent for their child(ren)’s support.

Child support guidelines
Guidelines established by statute or rule in each jurisdiction that set forth the manner in which child support must be calculated, generally based on the income of the parents and the needs of the children.

Custody
Having rights to your child. Custody can be either legal, which means that you have the right to make important decisions about your child’s welfare, or physical, which means that the child lives with and is raised by you.  Note:  The term and traditional legal concept of “custody” are no longer used in Florida Statutes to define a parent’s legal status with respect to his or her children, based on the principle that children are not property to be “possessed” by their parents.  See Parental Responsibility and Timesharing.

Decree
The court’s written order or decision finalizing the divorce, often issued in conjunction with the court’s judgment.

Default
Failing to answer a petition or complaint for divorce. Failing to file an answer or appear in court as required can result in the court awarding everything requested by the filing spouse.

Defendant
The person against whom legal papers are filed, also sometimes referred to as the respondent.

Deposition
Part of the discovery or information-exchanging process of a legal proceeding, in which the attorney for the other party asks you questions, you answer with your attorney present, and a transcript of the proceedings is prepared.

Discovery
The information-exchanging process of a legal proceeding, including serving and answering interrogatories and requests for production of documents, and taking depositions.
Dissolution. Another word for divorce, which is the legal termination of a marriage relationship.

Divorce
The legal termination of a marriage relationship.

Domestic violence
Physical abuse or threats of abuse occurring between members of the same household.

Equitable distribution
A division of property and debts that is fair in view of all of the circumstances. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal.

Interrogatories
Written questions served by the opposing party that must be answered in writing as part of the discovery process.

Joint legal custody
The sharing, by both parents, of the right to make important decisions about a child’s welfare.  Note:  Under Florida law, there is no such legal concept.  Florida Statutes define such rights as part of Parental Responsibility and Timesharing

Marital assets or marital property
Generally, property acquired during the marriage.

Mediation
A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for resolving legal disputes without going to trial, by the use of a trained and impartial third party who attempts to bring the parties together in mutual agreement.

Non-marital property
Generally, property owned by either spouse prior to marriage or acquired by them individually during the marriage by gift or inheritance.

Parenting plan
A legal document crafted by the parties or the court in a family law matter which confirms the parties’ parental responsibility and timesharing with respect to their minor children.

Petitioner
Often, the person who initiates legal proceedings in divorce or other family law matters, also called the plaintiff.

Plaintiff
The person who initiates legal proceedings, often called the petitioner in family law matters.

Premarital agreement
An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreement
An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a premarital agreement.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Pronounced “kwah-dro,” an order issued by the court to divide retirement benefits.

Respondent
The person who answers a petition in a legal proceeding, sometimes also referred to as the defendant.

Restraining order
An order issued by the court requiring the subject of the order to refrain from doing something, often issued in conjunction with domestic violence or custody disputes.

Settlement conference
A meeting at which the parties and their lawyers attempt to settle the case before trial.

Spousal support or maintenance
Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse during separation or following divorce. Also called Alimony.

Stipulation
An agreement entered into by parties to a legal proceeding that settles some or all of the issues between them, which is deemed to be binding upon them in future proceedings with regard to the matters contained in the stipulation.

Timesharing
The allocation of time that a child spends with each of his or her parents during separation or following a divorce.  Under Florida Statutes, timesharing arrangements are confirmed by the court in a Parenting Plan.

Visitation
The time that a noncustodial parent spends with his or her child(ren).  Note:  Florida Statutes no longer uses the term to define rights of parents with respect to children in family law matters.  See Timesharing.

© Findlaw.com with notes and modifications for Florida law purposes supplied by Mulhall Family Matters

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