Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Common Divorce Terms Defined

Divorce can be a complicated process, which is only made more complex by the multitude of legal terms we use during that process.  Thought it would be impossible to define all possible terms you could run into during a divorce, here's a list of some common terms and brief definitions: 

"Equitable Distribution": The scheme for dividing property during a divorce in Virginia.  It includes a list of factors that the judge takes into account and may not result in a 50/50 split of assets and liabilities.  Those factors include (from Virginia Code Ann. Sec. 20-107.3) :
1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
2. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
5. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivisions (1), (3) or (6) of § 20-91 or § 20-95;
6. How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
7. The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
8. The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
9. The tax consequences to each party;
10. The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
11. Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.

"Custodial Parent" (from Virginia Code Ann. Sec. 63.2-1900): the natural of adoptive parent with whom the child resides.

"Guardian ad litem": An attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the children in the pending divorce or custody case.

"Mediation": A process by which the parties, using a neutral third party, can attempt to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce.

"Child support": Money paid by one parent to the other for the benefit of the children.  This is determined by child support guidelines, which can be found here.

"Spousal Support": Money paid by one spouse to the other for the support and maintenance of that spouse during the pendency of and/or after the divorce is finalized.  (Read more on spousal support here).

"Arrearages":  This term refers to past due monies (typically in the form of child support or spousal support). 

"Complaint": The court document that initiates a divorce proceeding.

"Ore Tenus": Oral testimony heard in court for the purposes of supporting the allegations in the Complaint for divorce.

"Depositions": For purposes of a divorce, these are questions asked, under oath, outside of a courtroom, in support of allegations in the Complaint for divorce.

"Legal Custody": Legal custody refers to the major decision making responsibilities.  Legal custody can either be joint, meaning both parties have equal say in how to raise the child, or sole, meaning only one parent has a say in how the child is raised.

"Physical Custody": Physical custody refers to who the child actually resides with on a day-to-day basis.  This arrangement can be a wide variety or circumstances depending on the case.

"Visitation":  This term refers to the time the child spends with the parent with whom he/she does not reside.

"Pendente Lite": During a divorce, the court can award things temporarily, whether it be possession of the home, child support, spousal support, child custody, etc. These things are awarded during the pendency of the divorce and will be revisited at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. 

"Marital Assets": Any and all property or liability owned by the married couple which needs to be divided during the divorce proceedings. 

"Final Decree of Divorce":  This court filing finalizes the divorce and is signed by the judge at the conclusion of all divorce hearings. 

If you are thinking about divorcing or currently going through a divorce and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or