Birmingham Family Law and Divorce Update: Understanding Legal Terminology used in Alabama Divorce Courts

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

As a Birmingham divorce lawyer, I know that sooner or later some people will need the services of an experienced divorce attorney. One of the reasons folks turn to a legal professional is because of the complex and sometimes labyrinthine structure of our legal system here in Alabama. Regardless of whether a person is getting a divorce in Gadsden or Tuscaloosa, or becoming legally separated in Mobile or Huntsville, there are many areas of the law that only a lawyer can guide you through.

One area that sometimes causes people confusion is the myriad of legal terms they hear or read in agreements, contracts and decrees. To help make things a bit more clear, I have listed below a few of the many important terms and definitions used in the area of divorce law. Because getting a divorce is fraught with new and possibly intimidating terminology, retaining a qualified divorce lawyer and family law attorney is an important first step.

=============== Divorce Terms ================
 

Abandonment
Applied when one married spouse leaves the marital home, in some areas this may be grounds for divorce or may reflect adversely upon the spouse who moves.

Adultery
Sexual intercourse by a married person outside of the marriage, which in some parts of the country may be grounds for divorce or could adversely affect the offender's case.

Affidavit
A sworn written statement usually made under oath or on affirmation before a magistrate or officer (often a notary public).

Alimony
Also called maintenance or support. See Maintenance.

Alimony Pendente
Spousal support to be paid by one marital partner to the other during the pre-trial period of separation.

Contempt of Court
The deliberate failure to comply with the orders or directives of the Court.

Contested
Any issue on which the petitioner and respondent cannot agree, which must then be decided by the court.

Default
Failure to respond in the prescribed manner within a given period of time. The Respondent in a Petition for Dissolution is said to be in default if he or she failed to respond within a set period of time, usually 30 days after the date of service.

Discovery
Pretrial disclosure of pertinent facts and documents, including financial figures, by one or both parties.

Emancipation
The point at which children become financially independent, or reach the age of 18 or 21, depending on the wording of a state's laws.

Ex-Parte
On or from one side or party only, sometimes used in reference to the absence of the opposing party.

Interrogatories
A formal or written question that must be answered under the direction of the court.

Lump-Sum Alimony
Alimony (a.k.a. spousal support, maintenance) money is given in a single lump-sum payment.

Maintenance
Also called alimony or spousal support.

Mediation
A non-adversarial process in which two or more parties work through discussion and compromise toward agreement with the aid of a neutral party, or Mediator. In Divorce Mediation, the Mediator works with the divorcing spouses.

Motion to Modify
A motion put before the court requesting that changes be made in physical or legal custody, or in child support payments, thus modifying the existing arrangement.

No-Fault Divorce
A divorce in which neither party has been accused of or found guilty of any misconduct.

Non-Custodial Parent
The parent with whom the child is not physically living.

PDL Motion
pendente lite (Latin), or pending in the litigation. Any motion filed before the Petition is presented in court. Cannot be filed until at least 30 days after the Respondent is served with notice of intention to divorce. See Motions.

Petition for Dissolution
The wording used in some states for the legal Petition for Divorce.

Petitioner
The spouse who files for divorce.

QDRO
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a court order declaring that one spouse shall be entitled to a portion of the other spouse's pension as a part of the marital assets.

Quit Claim
To release or relinquish legal claim, or a document relinquishing claim, as in a quit claim to the deed to the marital house.

Request for Production
Part of the Discovery process in which one attorney asks for the other side to produce documents they deem necessary to the case, such as financial documents.

Respondent
The spouse whom the Petitioner is seeking to divorce.

Uncontested
When all issues have been resolved in a manner acceptable to both parties, the divorce is said to be Uncontested.

Visitation
The legal right of a non-custodial parent to see his or her child (children).

Waiver
The legal document with which one relinquishes a known right, claim, or privilege.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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