As if the decision of getting divorced isn’t stressful enough, there’s the confusion of learning the legalese that’s used by the court and attorneys through your divorce process. The following is a glossary of terms you may hear throughout your divorce.
Affidavit: A written statement of facts made under oath and signed before a Notary Public. Affidavits are attached to motions and are used to support the allegations being made. The attorney will prepare an affidavit to present relevant facts, and the person making the statements will sign the Affidavit.
Allegation: A statement that one party claims is true.
Answer: A written response to the Complaint for Divorce. It serves to admit or deny the allegations in the Complaint for Divorce.
Child Custody: The legal rights and responsibilities awarded by a court for the possession of, care of, and decision-making for a minor child.
Child Support: Financial support for a child paid by one parent to the other parent.
Complaint for Divorce: The first document filed with the clerk of court in an action for divorce. The Complaint for Divorce sets forth the facts on which the relief is based.
Contempt of Court: The willful and intentional failure of a party to comply with a court order. Contempt of court may be punishable by fines or incarceration.
Contested Divorce Case: A case in which the parties cannot reach an agreement and requires a trial to have the judge decide the disputed issues.
Court Order: A court-issued document setting forth the orders entered by the judge presiding over the divorce. A “Consent Order” can be issued based upon the parties’ agreement. An Order can also be issued based on the judge’s decision.
Cross-Examination: The questioning of a witness by the opposing attorney during trial in response to questions asked by the other attorney.
Defendant: The responding party to a divorce; the party who did not file the Complaint for Divorce.
Deposition: A witness’s testimony taken out of court, under oath, and in the presence of lawyers and a court reporter. If a person gives different testimony at the time of trial, he or she can be impeached with their deposition testimony.
Direct Examination: The initial questioning of a witness in court by the attorney who called him or her to the stand.
Discovery: A process used by lawyers to discover information from the opposing party for the purpose of fully assessing a case for settlement or trial. Some types of discovery include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admissions.
Equitable Distribution of Property: The method by which real and personal property and debts are divided in a divorce. Michigan law requires that marital property and debts be divided in an equitable manner.
Ex Parte: The term used to describe an appearance of only one party or attorney before the judge, without the other party or attorney being present. As an example, if you file an ex parte motion, you are asking the judge to sign it prior to a hearing being held, and before the other party has knowledge or ability to challenge the motion.
Hearing: Any proceeding before the court for the purpose of resolving disputed issues between the parties through the presentation of testimony, affidavits, exhibits, or argument.
Hold-Harmless Clause: A term in a Judgment of Divorce that requires one party to assume responsibility for a debt and to protect the other spouse from any loss or expense in connection with it. Basically, one party is ordered to hold the other party harmless from liability.
Interrogatories: Written questions sent from one party to the other that are used to obtain facts or information related to the divorce.
Joint Legal Custody: The parents share the decision-making rights, responsibilities, and authority relating to the health, education, and welfare of their child.
Joint Physical Custody: When each of the parents have significant, but not necessarily equal, periods of time with the child.
Judgment of Divorce: A final court order dissolving the marriage, dividing property and debts, ordering custody, parenting time, and child support.
Mediation: A process by which a neutral third party facilitates negotiations between the parties on the issues pending in the divorce.
Motion: A written pleading to the court requesting specific relief, such as temporary child support, child custody, or spousal maintenance.
Notice of Hearing: A written pleading listing the date and place of a hearing and the nature of the matters that will be heard by the court.
Party: The person in a legal action whose rights or interests will be affected by the divorce.
Plaintiff: The person who filed the Complaint for Divorce.
Pleadings: Documents filed by the court.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): A type of court order that provides for direct payment from a retirement account to a former spouse.
Request for Production of Documents: A written request for documents sent from one party to the other during the discovery process.
Show Cause: Written motion to the court to hold another person in contempt of court for violating or failing to comply with a current court order.
Stipulation: An agreement reached between parties.
Spousal Support: Payments from one party to the other.
Subpoena: A document delivered to a person or witness that requires him or her to appear in court, appear for a deposition or produce documents.
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): An order of the court prohibiting a party from certain behavior. For example, a TRO may order a person not to transfer any funds during a pending divorce action.
Trial: A formal court hearing in which a judge will decide disputed issues raised by the parties’ pleadings.
GRAND RAPIDS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE ATTORNEY SERVING KENT, OTTAWA, AND ALLEGAN COUNTY.
We understand that filing for divorce can be an emotional and confusing experience. That’s why we are committed to providing personalized service to each client we represent and will be with you through this difficult journey. At Schmitt Law, PLLC we encourage clients to take a more collaborative approach to divorce that promotes positive communication and cooperation. Through mediation or the collaborative divorce process, Laurie guides her clients through amicable divorce settlements so they can move forward with their life. To discuss your circumstances and legal options, contact Schmitt Law, PLLC at (616) 608-4634 to schedule a consultation. Or contact us online to arrange a consultation.