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Family Law Glossary

Affidavit
Written testimony under oath – usually sworn to in front of a notary.

Alimony
Payments made to support a current or former spouse. Also called maintenance or spousal support. Usually considered only if the parties were married for at least four (4) years and there is a significant disparity in incomes.

Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Proceedings and orders linked to minor children. Includes custody determination, child support, parenting time, dependent tax exemption, and health care.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Ways for parties to a divorce case to resolve their disagreements without a trial; usually defined to include collaborative divorce, negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

Annulment
An order which nullifies a marriage, or declares that no marriage ever existed.

Answer
A document used to respond to the complaint or petition. Answers usually admit or deny specific allegations or claims in the document being answered. Also called a response.

Appeal
A procedure to ask a higher court to review the ruling of a lower court.

Appearance
Coming into court as a party to a case or voluntarily submitting to the power of a court. Usually this is not a physical act, but a lawyer filing a document.

Child Support
Money paid by one parent to the other for the support of their children.

Common Law Marriage
A marriage without license or ceremony recognized by the law in the state it was created. Only recognized in Ohio if formed before October 1991.

Community Property
A form of co-ownership of property by a husband and wife who reside in one of the eight states where community property is recognized.

Complaint
The first document filed in an annulment, divorce, or legal separation case setting forth facts upon which the plaintiff’’s claim is based.

Contempt of Court
Failure to comply with a court order by a person who is able to comply. It also includes conduct in court which obstructs a court in the administration of justice.

Counterclaim
A pleading asking for a divorce or other relief filed in response to a Complaint.

Cross-Examination
Asking questions of a witness who was put on the stand by the other lawyer. Cross-examination is usually intended to discredit the witness or weaken the effect of the testimony.

Custody
Usually refers to the parent’s right to (1) have a child live with that parent and (2) make decisions concerning the child.

Default
Failure to do something or to do it on time.

Defendant
The husband or wife who is sued for divorce or legal separation.

Deposition
Testimony under oath taken before a court reporter but not in court. A discovery method.

Direct Examination
Asking questions of a witness by the lawyer who called the witness.

Discovery
Procedures used to learn facts necessary to settle a case or prepare it for trial.

Dissolution of Marriage
The legal process of ending a marriage when the parties agree on all issues, including custody, property, spousal support.

Equitable Division
A system of dividing property owned by parties to a divorce.

Evidence
Proof presented at a hearing, including testimony, documents or objects.

Exhibits
Tangible things presented at trial as evidence.

Ex-Parte
Any application to a court for relief made when only one side is present, without formal notice.

Garnish
To take money from wages or from an account to satisfy an unpaid court order for the payment of money.

Grounds
The conduct or circumstances which must be proved to entitle a person to a divorce.

Guardian-ad-Litem
A person, usually an attorney, appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in custody matters.

Hearing
Any proceeding before a judicial officer.

Interrogatories
Written questions served on the other party who is required to serve sworn written answers within a specified time. A type of discovery.

Judgment
The decision of a court. A type of order. Also called a decree.

Jurisdiction
The power of a court to decide a particular matter.

Legal Separation
A court order arranging the terms under which the parties will live apart after separating. While signifying the separation of the parties, it does not formally dissolve the marriage or permit the parties legally to marry other persons. May be used to preserve health insurance for one spouse or to comply with religious canons.

Marital Property
Interests in property acquired by the spouses during the marriage, regardless of how titled which is to be divided between the parties terminating a marriage. Does not include property inherited during the marriage, gifts, or personal injury awards.

Mediation
A dispute resolution process in which a disinterested third party, the mediator, assists the parties in reaching an agreement.

Motion
An application to the court for an order. May be written or oral.

Modification
A change in the judgment, based on a change of circumstances.

No-Fault Divorce
A divorce granted without proving that one party is guilty of misconduct.

Order
A ruling by the court.

Pleading
A document filed with the court which asks for something or responds to a pleading filed by the other party.

Privilege
A client’s right to refuse to disclose confidential communications between the client and certain persons in a professional relationship with the client, such as lawyers, doctors, psychotherapists, and priests.

Shared Parenting
One of the types of custody in Ohio. Both parties are legal custodians, and usually one party is designated as residential custodian for the limited purpose of determining what school district the children will attend. Parents should discuss issues of schooling, religion, and health care and together determine what is best for the children.

Sole Legal Custody
The person named as residential parent and legal custodian makes decisions regarding the children’s schooling, religious education, and health care.

Subpoena
A document served on a party or a witness commanding appearance at a certain time and place. A Subpoena Duces Tecum is a command to produce documents, papers, or other things listed in the subpoena.

Summons
The written notification of the lawsuit that is served upon the Defendant.

Temporary Orders
Orders granting relief between the filing of the lawsuit and the judgment. Automatic in some counties in Ohio.

 



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