Divorce is a difficult process and one that can be made even more complicated by the use of confusing legal terminology. If you are contemplating filing for divorce, it is helpful to understand the language of divorce. By defining some of the most common divorce terms and explaining what they mean in their simplest sense, you will be able to make more informed decisions about your divorce and better understand the legal process ahead of you.
Here are some of the most common divorce terms and what they mean:
- Dissolution. This is the legal term for divorce. When a parting couple decides to dissolve their marriage, they are essentially ending their legal relationship. The process of dissolution can be either contested or uncontested, meaning that the couple either agrees or disagrees on the terms of their divorce.
- Custody. Custody refers to the legal right to care for and make decisions about a child’s welfare. There are two primary types of custody: physical custody, which refers to where the child will live, and legal custody, which refers to who has the right to make decisions about the child’s welfare, including decisions about education, medical care, and religious upbringing.
- Visitation. Visitation is the right of a non-custodial parent to spend time with their child. Visitation schedules can be very flexible, or they can be very specific. The most common type of visitation is supervised visitation, which means that the non-custodial parent must visit with their child in the presence of a third party.
- Child support. Child support is the financial support that a non-custodial parent is required to pay to the custodial parent for the care of their child. Child support payments are usually made on a monthly basis.
- Alimony. Alimony is the financial support that a spouse may be required to pay to their former spouse after a divorce. Alimony payments can be made on a temporary or permanent basis, and they are usually based on the former spouse’s need for financial support and the paying spouse’s ability to pay.
- Property division. Property division is the process of dividing assets and debts between divorcing spouses. In many states, property is divided equally between the spouses, but in some states, property may be divided based on factors such as each spouse’s income and earning potential.
- Mediation. Mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses meet with a neutral third party, called a mediator, to try to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce. Mediation can be a very effective way to resolve disputes, and it is often used in divorces where the parties are able to communicate and cooperate with each other.
- Collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is a process in which divorcing spouses work with a team of professionals to resolve the terms of their divorce. The team typically includes attorneys, financial specialists, and a divorce coach. Collaborative divorce is often used when the parties want to avoid going to court.
- Adultery. Adultery is grounds for proceeding with a divorce. It occurs when one spouse has an affair with someone other than their spouse. This break of faith can be difficult to overcome, which is why it is often cited as a reason for divorce.
- Abandonment. Abandonment is another reason for divorce. It occurs when one spouse leaves the marriage without the intention of returning. This can be a difficult situation to recover from, and it often leads to feelings of betrayal.
- No-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce is a divorce in which the parties do not have the obligation to prove that either spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. No-fault divorces are typically faster and less expensive than fault-based divorces.
- Fault-based divorce. A fault-based divorce is a divorce in which one spouse must prove that the other spouse is clearly at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Fault-based divorces can be more expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces.
- Annulment. An annulment is a legal proceeding that cancels a marriage. Annulments are usually granted for marriages that were never valid, such as marriages that were entered into under duress or by fraud.
- Legal separation. A legal separation is a court order that allows spouses to live apart while remaining married. A legal separation does not end a marriage, but it can provide some of the same benefits as a divorce, such as property division and spousal support.
- Common law. Common law is a type of marriage that is not recognized by the government. Common law marriages are usually created when two people live together for a certain period of time and consider themselves as a married couple.
- Pre-nuptial agreement. A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract that is created before a marriage. It typically outlines how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. These agreements can be very helpful in protecting assets and ensuring that a fair divorce settlement is reached.
- Fair market value. Fair market value is the price that a willing buyer would pay for an asset, and it is typically used to determine the value of property in a divorce. For example, the fair market value of a house is the price that a willing buyer would pay in the current market for the house, not the price that the seller originally paid for the house.
- Perjury. Perjury is a crime that occurs when someone lies under oath. In a divorce, perjury can occur if one spouse lies about their income, assets, or debts. Perjury can also occur if one spouse lies about the grounds for divorce.
- Contempt of court. Contempt of court is a penalty that can be imposed on a spouse who violates a court order. In a divorce, contempt of court can occur if one spouse fails to pay child support or alimony or if one spouse fails to follow the terms of a divorce decree.
As you can see, there is a lot of divorce terminology to learn. But by understanding the meaning of these terms, you will be better equipped to make decisions about your divorce and navigate the legal process.
If you are considering a divorce, consult with an experienced Wichita divorce attorney to discuss your legal options and better understand the divorce process. An attorney can help you navigate the divorce process, protect your rights, and advocate for your best interests.