Absolute divorce: the final ending of a marriage wherein both parties are legally returned to the rights of single person, including right to remarry-cannot remarry until this is granted.
Ab Initio: Latin for “from the beginning”.
Affidavit: a written statement made under oath.
Answer: the written response to a complaint for divorce, petition or motion.
Annulment: 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. Only available under very limited circumstances.
Appeal: a legal action where the losing party requests that a higher court review the decision. Except in very limited circumstances, all appeals are in writing and no oral arguments are required.
Collusion: an agreement between two or more persons where one of the parties brings false charges against the other to create grounds for divorce that would not otherwise exist, i.e. parties agree to say that one party committed adultery to create grounds for divorce to obtain divorce quickly both knowing that adultery was never committed.
Complaint or Petition: the legal document that starts the legal action.
Contempt: Court finds that one party failed to follow the court order. Can result in monetary damages or jail.
Corroborating witness: a person who testifies for you and backs up your story-cannot be a party to the law suit. In a divorce action, you must have this witness to prove your grounds for divorce unless corroboration of grounds is waived by other side.
Custody: refers to the legal arrangement specifying who will have control of the children including the physical residence of the children. Can be sole custody or joint custody.
Default: a party’s failure to answer a complaint, petition or motion.
Defendant: the person the case is brought against.
Discovery: a method of obtaining information or evidence from the other side or other people. Often includes interrogatories (written questions answered under oath) and depositions (questions asked when a person is present and answers recorded by court reporter under oath).
Dissolution: the legal end of a marriage.
Filing: giving the clerk of court your legal papers usually accompanied by filing fee set by law.
Grounds for divorce: the legal basis for a divorce, the law sets out specific reasons for a divorce that have to be proven before the court can grant a divorce.
Judgment: a court’s final decision.
Jurisdiction: the authority of a court to hear a case. A court must have subject matter and personal jurisdiction.
Marital property: includes all property acquired during a marriage. There may be exceptions to what may be classified as marital property even if acquired during the marriage.
Marital debt: includes all debt acquired during the marriage. There are exceptions to what may be classified as marital debt.
Motion: a request to the court. Differs from a complaint and petition.
Pendente lite: temporary arrangements for custody, child support, visitation, alimony, use and possession of real and personal property until a final hearing.
Petition: a legal filing that starts a case. Same as complaint, but in some kinds of cases called petition and other cases called complaint.
Plaintiff: the party who files the law suit.
Pro se: representing yourself in a legal action without an attorney.
Reconciliation: married people who decide to get back together and drop divorce action.
Service of process: providing a copy of legal papers (complaint or petition) to the other side. Only court can appoint a person who performs service of process.
Spouse: husband or wife.
Subpoena: a form issued by the court or attorney requiring someone to appear in court or for a deposition and sometimes called subpoena duces tecum which means the person must bring papers requested.
Summons: a form issued by the court when a complaint or petition is filed directing a party to respond to a complaint or petition within a certain amount of time.
Uncontested divorce: when the defendant does not try to stop the divorce and there are no issues for the court to decide about custody, debt, property division or debt division.
Venue: a county where the case is filed and heard by a court.