Divorce Dictionary

Unfamiliar with a term? Need to clarify a definition? This comprehensive dictionary of words commonly used during the divorce process can help.
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The term used to describe the action of one spouse leaving the marital home without consent. This action is deemed as grounds for divorce in some states or provinces.

Absent parent The parent who does not have custodial rights to the child, but is responsible for the partial support of the child and is physically absent from the home where the child resides. This parent is usually referred to as the non-custodial parent.
Accrue To propagate or build upon.
Action The legal term for what is generally referred to as a lawsuit.
Administrative officer The official who is appointed instead of a judge to preside over the child.
Admissible Any form of testimony or evidence that is allowed into court.
Adultery When one spouse has sexual intercourse with a third party. In some states and provinces this is considered grounds for divorce.
Adversarial divorce A divorce where each spouse is unable to come to any agreement.
Adversary The opposition or the opposing party in a lawsuit. In a divorce, the litigant or adversary will probably be your spouse.
AFDC (aid to families with dependent children)

Financial support in the form of cash given to a family with children in need of financial help. The grant is offered because the head of the family or the custodial parent is not employed and not receiving child support or assistance from the non - custodial parent.

Affidavit A written statement of facts that are made under oath and which must be witnessed and signed by a notary or another official authorized to administer oaths.
Affirmative defense New facts or legal defenses in response to the opposing spouse's pleading.
Agreement A verbal or written resolution of disputes.
Alimony Financial support paid to one spouse from the other. May be paid in one lump sum or in installments. It can be temporary or permanent.
Alimony pendente A pretrial order for spousal support.
Allegations The claims that are made against the other spouse in the lawsuit (action).
Alternative dispute resolution (adr) Specific methods, including mediation and arbitration, with which couples can obtain a divorce settlement without a trial.
Annulment A legal action or lawsuit which may result in treating the marriage as if it never took place.
Answer The formal response for a divorce, separation or annulment petition. The response or answer contains the admission or denial of the allegations made by the petitioner or against the petitioner.
Antenuptial agreement A legal contract signed by two people prior to marriage which states limitations to spouse's rights to property, support, or inheritance if the marriage ends in divorce.
Appeal A legal procedure in which the losing party of a divorce (lawsuit ) requests that a higher court review the decision.
Appearance A formal submission to the courts by the defendant (respondent) in response to the a complaint or summons.
Appellant The individual who brings the appeal.
Appellate court The court in which a appeal is heard.
Application The primary step in all divorce proceedings and court order. (The standard forms are available from the court office.
Apportion To divide and assign according to a definite rule. The division is not necessarily equal but is fair according to the respective interests of the parties involved.
Appraisal The procedure for determining the fair market value of an asset for equitable distribution in divorce.
Appraisal report A report of the results of an appraisal which begins with the definition of an appraisal problem and leads to a specific conclusion using reasoning and relevant descriptive data.
Arbitration A legally binding, but not a judicial procedure. When a neutral third party makes judgment on a case. This is not permitted in most states or provinces.
Arrearages A term used to describe the amount of money less the court order amount of Support. If a spouse does not pay the full amount of support, the missing amount is considered the arrearages.
Assets Cash, property and investments along with anything else that may be of value to a individual or business.
Assignment The release by an AFDC recipient of all rights to support arrearages owed the recipient and of the right to receive current child support as the result of the receipt of AFDC.
Attachment The process by which the court seizes the property of a debtor.
Automatic wage deduction A court ordered child support system in which the non - custodial parent has the support amount deducted directly from his or her paycheck which is then distributed by the employer.
Award A decision made by a court to compensate a person for something.