Legal Terms Defined

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“Getting a divorce is usually pretty complicated, even under the best circumstances. You will hear many divorce terms you don’t understand. Or you may hear a term that you think you understand, but something is missing. That something could be pretty important to your future. So I’ve provided a list of the most common divorce terms you are most likely to encounter. The definitions are simplified so that you can easily grasp their meanings.” Antoinette M. Lerandeau

If you still have a question, please feel free to phone us at (559) 230-2600.

Petitioner

The Petitioner is the spouse seeking the divorce.

Respondent

The Respondent is the spouse being sued for divorce.

Summons

A Summons is a document filed with the court by the Petitioner and served on the Respondent. It notifies the Respondent, among other things, of the following …

  • Respondent is being sued for divorce
  • Who is suing
  • The name of the court
  • The court’s address
  • Respondent has 30 days to respond
  • There are certain limitations on each spouse’s actions until a court order is obtained

ATROS

ATROS (Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders) are specified on the back of the Summons and bind both spouses. Among other things, they restrain each spouse from …

  • Taking their children out of the state
  • Changing any insurance
  • Disposing of any assets
  • Creating any non-probate transfers of property upon death

Petition for Dissolution

The Petition for Dissolution is a document filed with the court by the Petitioner and served on the Respondent. It alleges, among other things, the following …

  • The date of marriage
  • The date of separation
  • Certain facts, which grant the court the authority to hear the case
  • What the Petitioner wants

UCCJEA Declaration

A UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) Declaration is a document filed with the court by each spouse. It alleges where the children have lived for the last five years.

Response

A Response is a document filed with the court by the Respondent and served on the Petitioner. It alleges, among other things, the following …

  • The date of marriage
  • The date of separation
  • Certain facts, which grant the court the authority to hear the case
  • What the responding spouse wants

Discovery

Discovery is the process of compiling information relevant to resolving the divorce. Discovery can take many forms including, but not limited to …

  • Answering written questions
  • Producing documents
  • Answering questions in person

Disclosure

Disclosure is the process of identifying certain essential facts in writing to each spouse. The theory is that a fair agreement cannot be reached without a complete understanding of:

  • Everything the spouses own;
  • Everything they owe;
  • Everything they earn; and
  • Everything they spend.

There are two types of disclosure: 1) preliminary; and 2) final.

  • Preliminary disclosure is an abbreviated process, which occurs at the beginning of a divorce; and
  • Final disclosure is a detailed process, which happens at the end of the case.

Schedule of Assets and Debts

A Schedule of Assets and Debts is a detailed listing of each spouse’s property and liabilities. It lists the following …

  • How much is owed on each asset
  • Each asset’s value
  • Whether the assets are community or separate property.

Supporting documents are required to be attached.

Community Property

Community Property is presumed to be any asset acquired during the marriage and any debt incurred during the marriage. Community property is required to be equally divided.

Separate Property

Separate Property is any asset and/or debt acquired before marriage, after separation, or at anytime by gift or inheritance. Separate Property is confirmed to the spouse who acquired it.

Restraining Order

A Restraining Order is an order from the judge prohibiting one or both spouses from engaging in certain conduct. Restraining Orders are most commonly used when domestic violence is an issue.

Request for Order

A Request for an Order is a document filed with the court and served upon the other spouse. It is one of the documents necessary to obtain a hearing and a court order. It specifies what a spouse we be requesting at the hearing.

Order after Hearing

An Order after Hearing is a document that specifies what orders the judge made at a hearing.

Ex-Parte

Ex-Parte is the description of a process where one party applies for an order of the court without notifying the other spouse. It is usually limited to situations where there is some very serious harm that can only be prevented by immediately granting the requested order. Ex-Parte orders temporarily bind the parties until a regularly noticed hearing can be held.

Memorandum of Points and Authorities

A Memorandum of Points and Authorities is a document filed with the court and served on the other spouse. It is a brief explanation of the law and facts necessary for the judge to decide an issue at a hearing.

Declaration

A Declaration is a document filed with the court and served on the other spouse. It is a statement of facts filed under penalty of perjury.

Separation

Separation is a date when the parties, in essence, part ways with no intention of reconciling. It requires a physical separation and conduct consistent with the desire to end the marriage. Separation is different from a legal separation.

Marital Settlement Agreement

A Marital Settlement Agreement is a contract between the spouses resolving all of their rights in the marriage. It usually becomes part of judgment of divorce.

Judgment of Divorce

A judgment of divorce is an order terminating a marriage.

Divorce

Divorce is just a common term referring to a Dissolution.

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