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Divorce Glossary: The Most Important Terms You Need to Know

Not many people start divorce expecting an easy process. It’s an emotional roller coaster and difficult alone without the confusing legal terms involved. Legalese is an unavoidable part of a divorce, but having a basic understanding of the jargon can help make everything easier.

Our Pasadena family law attorneys at Schweitzer Law Partners put together a glossary of the most important terms you’ll need to know to successfully navigate every step of the process.

Alimony: Financial payments made to help support a former spouse during separation or following a divorce. This may also be called maintenance or spousal support. In California, a judge will consider each party’s employment status, individual disposable incomes, contribution to building the home and family during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and much more.

Alternative dispute resolution: Methods of resolving legal disputes without going through litigation, such as mediation or arbitration.

Best interests of the child: All child custody and visitation discussions and decisions are made with the ultimate goal of preserving the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development.

Community property state: Divorcing couples in community property states must divide anything earned or acquired during the marriage, including debt, 50/50.

Contested divorce: When there is a disagreement over divorce issues such as property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, or visitation. Often the most desirable option when looking to dissolve your marriage is to pursue an uncontested divorce.

Child custody: Having the rights to your child. Custody can be either legal, which means you have the right to make important decisions about your child’s welfare, or physical, which means that the child lives with you.

Child support guidelines: Guidelines established in each jurisdiction that outline the manner in which child support is calculated, typically based on each parent’s income and child’s needs.

Discovery: Information exchange process of a legal proceeding, including requests for documents, the taking of depositions, answering interrogatories, and more.

Equitable distribution: Method of dividing marital assets in a way that is deemed fair to both parties. California is not an equitable distribution state.

Joint legal custody: Both parents share the right to make important decisions about their child’s welfare, including religion, healthcare, and education.

Joint physical custody: Shared day-to-day responsibilities for a child’s care and upbringing.

Marital property: Generally, all assets and debts acquired during the marriage, including income, furniture, property, and businesses.

Mediation: A form of alternative dispute resolution utilizing a trained third party who attempts to facilitate discussion and bring the parties together in mutual agreement.

Noncustodial parent: The parent who does not have physical custody rights.

Nonmarital property: Generally, all assets owned by either spouse prior to the marriage or acquired by them individually via gift or inheritance. It is also called separate property.

Parenting plan: Also called a custody and visitation agreement, it is the parents’ written agreement about time-sharing and decision-making.

Prenuptial agreement: An agreement decided upon prior to the marriage that outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce, typically covering asset distribution. Postnuptial agreements play the same role but they can be entered into after the marriage has already happened.

Visitation: The time a noncustodial parent spends with their child.

Speak with a Pasadena Divorce Attorney Today

Refer back to this glossary to help you along your divorce proceedings. You should also have a skilled divorce lawyer who will answer your questions and advocate for you. We at Schweitzer Law Partners will be the legal counsel you need during your divorce.

Put over 55 years of experience on your side by calling Schweitzer Law Partners at (626) 788-5225 today.

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