Divorce Court Jargon

It wouldn’t be law if we didn’t have a lot of fancy words you don’t understand.  Sometimes law is nothing more than a foreign language.  Once you understand the language the process goes much easier.  Here are a few dozen fancy words with their not so fancy definitions.

Affidavit of Service – A sworn statement that certifies the delivery of a complaint, summons, notice, or order to a person, by stating the time and manner in which the paperwork was given to the party.

Affidavit – – A written statement used in court proceedings that a person swears under oath before a notary publics. Common affidavits used in divorce or family law are “Affidavit of Resident Witness” and “Affidavit of Plaintiff in Support of Temporary Orders.”

Alimony – Sometimes referred to as spousal support.  Alimony is income paid from one spouse to another spouse in periodic payments or sometimes in a lump sum.  Payments are tax deductible to the payer and included in the payee’s taxable income.

Annulment – A ruling by the court that a “marriage”, retroactively, was never legally valid or is void.

Answer – The Answer is the paperwork, or Pleading, filed by a defendant as a response to a Complaint filed in a lawsuit. An Answer responds to each allegation in the Complaint by denying or admitting it. Defendants must file an Answer, and include a Counterclaim, within 20 days of being served the Complaint.

Appeal -An appeal is a review by Nevada’s Supreme Court of a lower court’s ruling. Appeals are not automatic and after the lower court’s judgment, the moving party (appellant) must file a notice of appeal request.

Arrears – Unpaid child support or spousal support.

Best Interest of the Child – This is the primary legal standard that the Nevada courts use to make decisions regarding child custody or child support. The judge will use this standard in making many of the decisions concerning children in a divorce or family law matter.

Case Management Conference (CMC) – A court hearing between both parties, the attorneys, and judge to set a schedule for the trial. The attorneys and judge agree on dates for FMC, Discovery, and a trail date.

Change in Circumstance – A change, usually substantial, in the emotional, financial, or physical condition of one or both parents, justifying a modification of a child custody or child support order.

Child Support– Payments agreed to, or ordered by the court, to be paid by one parent to the custodial parent of a child(ren).  Payments are not tax deductible by the payor parent and not considered by the IRS as Taxable income by the payee parent.

Community Property – A label placed on property, assets, or income, which upon a divorce will be equally divided between the divorcing couples.  Some types of property such as gifts, inheritance and personal injury awards may be identified as Separate Property.

Complaint – A Complaint is the paperwork that initiates a divorce proceeding. The Complaint is filed by the Plaintiff with the Clerk of the Court, identifies the other party and states the claims against the Defendant.

Counterclaim – Allegations or claims, if any, that the Defendant includes in their Answer to a Complaint.

Defendant – The party in a legal matter that has been sued. The party filing the lawsuit is called a Plaintiff. There is little significance in who is the Defendant or Plaintiff. Both the defendant and the plaintiff are provided equal opportunity to present their case to the court.

Depositions – A formal questioning of parties or witnesses. Used for information gathering, depositions allow an attorney to ask questions of which the answers can be used at the hearing in a trial.

Discovery – Is the process of gathering information and evidence to present during trial or a hearing. The primary discovery methods are 1) Depositions 2) Interrogatories 3) Request for Production of Documents  4) Request of Admissions. Discovery deadlines are scheduled at the Case Management Conference.

Divorce Decree – The paper signed by the judge which details the final determination of all matters disputed in a divorce proceeding.

Ex Parte Motion – Ex Parte means without notice to the opposing party. Standard motions are served upon the opposing party and or opposing attorney. An Ex Parte Motion is sent directly to the judge for a decision.

Family Mediation Center (FMC) – Under Nevada Law every legal matter where the parenting plan involving a minor child, under the age of 18, is unresolved shall be ordered to attend mediation in an attempt to reach an agreement on the Parenting Schedule.

Filing – A term used to describe the submitting of a legal document to the Clerk of the Court.

Guardian – A person who is legally responsible for the care and management of the person or property of a minor or incompetent person.

Interrogatories – A document used during Discovery containing questions regarding the case. You are required to answer the questions to the best of your knowledge and return your answers to the opposing party of the opposing attorney. 

Joint Petition – When both parties agree to all issues such as child custody, child support, and property division they may apply to court jointly for the court to dissolve the marriage. A joint petition is quicker and simpler than a contested divorce.

Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) – A document filed with the Complaint and Summons that warns both parties and Orders both parties not to take certain actions during the divorce proceeding. Typical warnings include that neither party can sell, encumber, or destroy community property.

Legal Custody– One of two types of custody that are determined in a child custody matter. Legal Custody is the authority to make decisions regarding a child’s’ healthcare, education, and religion. Joint custody means the parties share in these decisions.

Marital Settlement Agreement – A legally binding agreement settling all matters pertaining to a divorce.  Typical agreements decide each issue such as property, child custody, child support, alimony and other issues that a court would decide before issuing a divorce decree.

Mediation – A method of dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Family Mediation Center (FMC) – Under Nevada Law every legal matter where the parenting plan involving a minor child, under the age of 18, is unresolved shall be ordered to attend mediation in an attempt to reach an agreement on the Parenting Schedule.

Filing – A term used to describe the submitting of a legal document to the Clerk of the Court.

Guardian – A person who is legally responsible for the care and management of the person or property of a minor or incompetent person.

Interrogatories – A document used during Discovery containing questions regarding the case. You are required to answer the questions to the best of your knowledge and return your answers to the opposing party of the opposing attorney.

Joint Petition – When both parties agree to all issues such as child custody, child support, and property division they may apply to court jointly for the court to dissolve the marriage. A joint petition is quicker and simpler than a contested divorce.

Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) – A document filed with the Complaint and Summons that warns both   parties and Orders both parties not to take certain actions during the divorce proceeding. Typical warnings include that neither party can sell, encumber, or destroy community property.

Legal Custody – One of two types of custody that are determined in a child custody matter. Legal Custody is the authority to make decisions regarding a child’s’ healthcare, education, and religion. Joint custody means the parties share in these decisions.

Marital Settlement Agreement – A legally binding agreement settling all matters pertaining to a divorce.  Typical agreements decide each issue such as property, child custody, child support, alimony and other issues that a court would decide before issuing a divorce decree.

Mediation – A method of dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Minutes – The documentation of conversations and proceedings that are registered by a court reporter in court.

Motion – A formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment. Most motions require a written petition, a written brief of legal reasons for granting the motion (often called “points and authorities”), written notice to the attorney for the opposing party, and a hearing before a judge. When a Motion is filed and served, the opposing party has ten days to respond by filing an Opposition.

Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) – The written laws of Nevada developed by state legislatures. NRS statutes  regarding divorce or family law matters in Nevada are covered in NRS Chapters 122 thru 130.

Opposition – An opposition is a document filed in response to the opposing party’s motion. The opposition provides the judge an opposing version of the facts and issue.

Order; Court Order– A document signed by the judge detailing the final decision regarding the legal matters presented to the court. Anyone who violates the court order could be held in contempt of court.

Parenting Schedule or Parenting Plan – A schedule detailing the dates and times regarding which parent the child(ren) will reside. The plan may also provide guidelines and expectations regarding drop off locations, times and schedule exceptions. View typical Parenting Plan.

Paternity – The state or condition of being a father.  Paternity is verified through a DNA test.

Petitioner – The person or agency that initiates a case by filing a petition. Known as the “plaintiff” in other courts.

Physical Custody – Relates to the physical location of the child. The types of custody are primary custody, primary custody with visitation, or joint custody. If a child resides with a parent more than 61% of the time then the custody is considered to be at least primary custody with visitation. If the child resides with both   parents equally then the custody is considered joint custody.

Pleading – The name given to a formal written document filed with a court by parties in litigation such as a Complaint, Answer, Motion, or Opposition.

Service; Service of Process – The legal process of delivering to the opposing party legal notices such as a Complaint, Summons, or Motion. There are specific rules of who and what is considered proper service. An Affidavit that certifies the service of a legal document will state the date, time, and manner in which the document was served.

Stipulation; Stipulated and Order – A written agreement reached by the parties or attorneys that documents an agreement. Stipulations can be made on an issue as simple as moving of a court date, or one as large as a child custody settlement.

Summons – The court’s official notice to the Defendant that he/she is being sued and must respond to the attached Complaint or Motion within a certain time period.

Temporary Orders – A final divorce decree or order from the judge may take months and some issues need a quicker resolution. Temporary Orders are entered by the court and will remain in place until both parties settle the case or when a final order has been determined by the judge. Typical temporary orders are made in regards to sale of a marital home, amount of temporary child support to be paid, a temporary parenting schedule, etc.

Temporary Protective Order (TPO) – A person may apply to the court for an order to prevent another person from stalking and harassing.

UCCJEA – Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is a federal law adopted to handle jurisdictional issues that arise when parents of a child(ren) who live in different states are looking for a court to handle a divorce or custody legal matter.

Feeling Smarter? Call a Las Vegas Custody Lawyer at (702) 914-0400 if need to learn more.