Divorce Glossary

Divorce Glossary

Dissolution is a field where the terms are unfamiliar (like “dissolution”!) This divorce glossary will help you figure out what all those words mean.

A divorce glossary is only as good as the person thinking up the terms. So if you have a term you don’t understand, use the Ask Julian Anything form below to find out what your term means.

Alimony – The old term for “spousal support.” See term below.

Annulment – An official decree saying that the marriage never took place.

Child Support – Order, usually based on legal guidelines, that says one parent will pay the other parent a monthly sum for the upbringing of the children. Generally, but not always paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent.

Common Law Marriage – In some states, when a man and a woman live together as husband and wife for a specified period of time, their relationship is considered a “Common Law Marriage” even though no legal papers were filed. California does not have Common Law Marriage, but does recognize Common Law Marriages which would have been valid in another state.

Confidential Marriage – When a man and a woman have been living together, they may apply for a Confidential Marriage which bypasses the requirement for a Marriage License.

Dissolution – The word used in the beginning of this divorce glossary! It simply means divorce.

Final Judgment – The document which lays out all of the rights and obligations to end the marriage. There are no further Temporary Orders. Modification of the Orders, however, can take place after a Final Judgment.

Legal Separation – A formal process by which final orders are made on all issues, similar to a divorce, but the marriage is not terminated. This process can be used for religious or for benefit (ie. health care, etc.) reasons.

Marital Settlement Agreement – a document made before or during the Final Judgment which specifies all of the requirements of the divorce but does not need a Judge’s signature. These can be legally enforceable if done correctly.

No Fault Divorce – The principle that one party can terminate the marriage based on their assertion that there are “irreconcilable differences.” California is a no fault state.

Order to Show Cause – The means by which a party obtains temporary orders or is able to modify orders.

Petition – The document filed that starts a divorce case. The person who files it becomes the “Petitioner” in the case.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders – Also known as QDROs (pronounced “quadro”), these divide pensions for distribution at a later time.

Response – After a Petition is filed and served, the other party files a Response. This is a form which is quite similar to the Petition in content. The party filing a Response becomes the “Respondent” in the case.

Spousal Support – California’s term for alimony. This is financial payment from a higher earning party to a lower earning party to ease the transition into divorce. Spousal Support is rarely for life anymore. It is a public policy goal of the state of California that all parties become self sufficient.

Summons – This document is served along with the Petition and acts as the formal call to litigation.

Temporary Order – These are Orders made prior to the Final Judgment.

Temporary Restraining Order – Also known as “TROs,” these Orders give the person who files legal protection against violence. When a TRO is granted, the Responding Party must get rid of all of their guns and other weapons. The TRO can also be used to call out the police. Temporary Orders can become Permanent (3 years) after a contestable hearing.

So, that's the start of my divorce glossary. If you have more terms that need to be added, use the Ask Julian Anything form to suggest a "Divorce Glossary" word.

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