Divorce A-Z: Key Terms and Definitions pt.1

Filing for divorce requires knowledge of the process, preparation of specific information and documents and an understanding of the expectations of the court. Certain marriages qualify for special circumstance and can be annulled, while others must be handled through extended divorce proceedings.  Below are some of the key terms you will need to know if you are about to begin divorce proceedings.

Annulment – the term used to describe the dissolution of a marriage so that it never seemed to take place. The marriage has to meet certain stipulations.

Bigamy – a reason for annulment; this is a situation where a person is already involved in a legal marriage and enters into another union with a second individual. It is also illegal and therefore punishable by state law.

Custody – this is the term used to describe the agreement put in place to state which parent has the children at what points during the week and throughout the year. It also states who is primarily responsible for their care and

De Facto – latin for “In Fact”, this term is used to describe paying child support or other aspects of a marriage where it appears the situation follows the law, without the legal system making a decree in regard to the matter. For child support, it means the child support is paid based on guidelines and voluntarily.

Financial Statement – required for a divorce, this outlines both the assets and liabilities the couple has as a result of the marriage and time spent in that marriage.

Good Cause – when pertaining to the modification or revocation of alimony (spousal support), it means there is a significant change in the circumstances of the spouse paying the support or the spouse receiving it that leads to the change in the original terms.

Head of Household – primarily important as pertaining to tax filing. This is a filing term that should be used if the person paid for more than half of the upkeep of the household during the year. It can also be used by abandoned wives who are supporting minor children. Divorced individuals should use this filing to get lower rates for tax purposes.

In Loco Parentis – this term is used for an individual that acted in place of the natural parent, i.e. grandparents or stepparents. This is relevant in custody proceedings when individuals other than the natural parents are fighting for visitation rights.

Joint Custody – this term is used to describe the situation where both parents share physical and legal custody of the minor children, sharing in the decision-making regarding all aspects of their lives as well.

Kitchen Sink States – this term describes states where even property owned by one individual alone is included in the marital property and is eligible for distribution in the divorce proceedings. These states include Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon, but they do not include California.

Petitioner – the person who files for divorce.

Respondent – the person who receives the papers and has 30 days to respond to the filing.

These terms and more are involved in the lengthy and sometimes confusing process of divorce. If it seems too overwhelming to understand on your own, contact the Law Office of Anne Snowden Saxton, where reputable lawyers are on hand to share their experience with divorce proceedings and advise you of the best way to move forward in your specific situation.

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