Abstract Family


Divorce Glossary

What do these words mean anyway?


sexual intercourse between a married person and a third party. "Infidelity" or "cheating" is more or less the same thing but less technical. "Fooling around" is also the same thing, to make it sound less serious.
also known as Spousal Support. It is money which one divorced spouse is ordered to pay to his or her ex-spouse each month, which in theory is so that each person can maintain as close as possible to the previous standard of living. Usually the amount is determined mostly by the incomes (if any) of the two people, and also depending on the length of the marriage, but usually not considering "fault" or even adultery. It might be for life or a number of years, usually ending if the receiving spouse remarries. Laws vary considerably between states.
Bird nesting
a term for an uncommon custody arrangement where the children remain in one home and the parents take turns living there, moving back and forth between the marital home and another home. It is not common because the divorcing parents find it too stressful and inconvenient to maintain for very long. Usually the kids are forced to move back and forth instead.
Child Support
money which one divorced spouse is ordered to pay to his or her ex-spouse each month, which in theory is so that the children can maintain their accustomed standard of living. Usually the amount is based on the incomes of the two parents and the percentage of custody of each parent, and usually it will be paid only to spouses who have at least 50% custody regardless of incomes; and almost never has anything to do with fault. Like alimony (spousal support), it is monthly paycheck deduction for the paying spouse, but unlike alimony it ends when the children reach the age of majority (usually 18 years old)
Child Custody
the court decision (or other legal agreement) of which parent the children will live with after a divorce. In most states today, the custody will often be a certain schedule with each parent rather than 100% one or the other
the person who is receiving the divorce notice, that his or her spouse (the plaintiff) wants to end the marriage, divide marital property, settle child custody (if there are any children), and perhaps request monthly payments of spousal support and/or child support. It is the opposite of Plaintiff. Sometimes the child custody, child support, and spousal support claims might be separate legal actions from the divorce itself and might have different "plaintiffs" and "defendant"
Divorce culture
the ideas in society that divorce is normal and acceptable, and that marriage is just one of many equally valid lifestyle choices. Acceptance of adultery is also a part of it.
Divorce Industry
the lawyers, mediators, counselors, etc.as well as public officials who earn money from divorces, either directly or indirectly. "Divorce industry" is a somewhat derogatory term which has connotations that the high divorce rate is caused in part due to lots of people making money from it. It is analogous to "Military-Industrial complex" which implies that arms dealers contribute to wars or "Big Tobacco" implying that tobacco companies obstruct public health measures
Divorce notice
a legal document which the defendant receives from the court (perhaps by registered mail) after the plaintiff's lawyer does the filing. The delivery is called “being served”
Domestic violence
a term which could refer to spousal abuse or child abuse or both
Filing for divorce
submission of legal documents to initiate a divorce by the plaintiff, which results in a divorce notice being served to the defendant to inform him or her that a divorce has begun. The completion of the divorce will happen sometime later – perhaps even years later – depending on the state and on the circumstances of how it was filed.
Joint custody
the concept of dividing physical custody such that children live in the home of each parent part of the time. A primary goal of Father's Rights is the presumption of 50% custody with each parent as the starting point in custody to be adjusted as situations depend, rather than the presumption of the mother having full custody as the starting point.
Legal custody
which parent is able to sign documents for children who are minors. Usually both parents have joint legal custody even if only one of them has physical custody.
Marital property (or marital assets)
the home, money, furniture, cars, etc. - as well as debts such as mortgages and credit card debt -- acquired by the husband and wife during the time of the marriage. It needs to be divided upon divorce. Usually it is divided more or less 50-50 regardless of whose name is registed with that deed or account, or who "earned" it, and also regardless of fault for the divorce
hiring of a third person to help the husband and wife discuss the details of child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division to try to come to an agreement, as opposed to asking a judge to decide. It is NOT about trying to prevent the divorce.
No-Fault Divorce
the concept that divorces (including property division, spousal support, child support, and custody) should be settled without reference to whose fault the divorce is. By extension, this also means that adultery – the most common cause of divorce – is also not considered as anybody fault.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
disorder in which a child hates, belittles, and insults one of his parents. There is much controversy over whether or not PAS should be considered a true psychological disorder, but certainly these results can happen when one parent who has primary custody hates his/her ex and doesn't hide it from the kids.
physical custody
which parent the children live with
the person who initiated the legal action for the divorce
primary custody
having the children live with you (physical custody) more than 50% of the time
Property settlement
division of marital assets and debts upon divorce. Most often it is close to 50-50
Spousal Support
See Alimony
Unilateral divorce
a divorce filed by one spouse though the other spouse wishes the marriage to continue.
VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
a controversial federal law which which originally passed in 1994 but reauthorized and expanded in 2000 and 2004, and up for re-authorization again in 2011. An important change from previous laws against spousal abuse was allowance of pre-trial detention of accused men.

A more complete "Divorce Dictionary can be found on Divorce Support though with some pro-divorce bias as you might expect.