Glossary Terms

Review the list of the most commonly used divorce terms to assist in making appropriate decisions in your divorce agreements.


A payment of support provided by one spouse to the other.


A verbal or written resolution of disputed issues.


A marriage can be dissolved in a legal proceeding in which the marriage is declared void, as though it never took place. In the eyes of the law, the parties were never married. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.

Best Interests of The Child:

Legal standard used to determine child custody, visitation, and support.


The one who files the suit, same as "plaintiff."


Called a Bill of Complaint. The legal paper that starts a case.

Custodial Parent:

The spouse who has physical custody of the spouses' child or children.

Custody-Sole & Joint:

This refers to the legal arrangements for whom a child will live and how decisions will be made. Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody is the decision-making part: physical custody refers to where the child lives regularly. Generally, the parent the child, does not live with will have regular visits with the child. Parents can make any custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of their children. The standard for custody is the "best interest of the child."


The legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

Equitable Distribution:

The division of property between the spouses, and usually only that property bought or acquired by one or both spouses during the marriage.

Fault-Based Divorce:

Divorce action where misconduct by one spouse is needed before a marriage may be ended.

Fault Grounds:

Marital misconduct giving one spouse a legal reason to sue for divorces, such as abuse, abandonment, and adultery.


Giving the clerk of Court your legal papers.

Filing Party:

Petitioner or Plaintiff. The Petitioner or Plaintiff is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.

Grounds For Divorce:

The legal basis for a divorce; the law sets out specific reasons for a divorce, which have to be proven before the court can grant a divorce.

Joint Legal Custody:

The parent a child lives with has “physical” custody. In New Jersey, courts sometimes call this “residential custody.” A parent with “legal custody,” on the other hand, has the authority to make significant decisions affecting a child's health, education, safety, and welfare.

Joint Physical Custody:

In the simplest of terms, joint physical custody is an arrangement in which both parents share equal rights in terms of time and contact with their children. In other words, the children's physical place of residence is shared between both parents.


A court's decision.


The authority of the court to hear a case.

Legal Separation:

An arrangement to live separate and apart while remaining legally married.

Lump Sum Alimony:

Refers to a single payment of alimony. The amount is made payable in a lump sum. Lump-sum alimony may include property division, which might affect its tax status. Lump-sum alimony is a single sum of money that serves as complete payment.

Marital Property:

Includes all property acquired during the marriage, including money and mutually acquired possessions.


A person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict agree; a go-between.


A request to the court.

Non-Marital Property:

The property that each spouse brings into the marriage, that is, the property that s/he owned before the marriage and property acquired by the individual as gift or inheritance either before or during a marriage, is considered to be "separate" or "non-marital" property.


A court's ruling or decision on a particular matter or legal issue, usually a decision on a motion filed by one spouse


The spouse who filed the divorce petition, same as "plaintiff."

Physical Custody:

A term that is often used in child custody orders to denote the parent with whom a child spends or lives the great majority of the time.

Property Distribution:

Division of property, also known as equitable distribution, is a judicial division of property rights and obligations between spouses during divorce. It may be done by agreement, through a property settlement, or by judicial decree.

Prose/Proper Person:

Representing yourself in court without an attorney.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO):

A court order gives one spouse a share of the other spouse's pension or retirement funds.

Sole Custody:

Authority to care, control, and maintain a child, which a court may award to one of the parents following a divorce or separation proceeding.

Spousal Support:

Is a legal obligation to provide financial support to their spouse before the divorce. 


Husband or Wife.


The county where the case is heard.


The non-custodial parent's right to spend time with the spouse's child or children.


An act or instance of waiving a right or claim.

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