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Family Law Terminology

Beaverton Family Law Terminology Lawyer

Like most areas of the law, family law has terms which are used within the industry to describe circumstances, processes and events. Below is a glossary of legal terms used by attorneys. These legal terms and definitions will give you a general understanding of the terms and descriptions that may come up in a discussion with your attorney.

Portland Legal Adviser Attorney

This glossary of legal terms is not complete and does not cover all circumstances. It is imperative that it be used to give you enough information to be able to comfortably converse with your legal adviser and not as an explanation of the legal adviser's statements.

Term

Description

Affidavit

A written statement supporting a party's request to the court that is sworn to before a notary.

Affirmative Relief

Relief, benefit, or compensation which may be due and granted to a party.

Agreement

An oral or written meeting of the minds. In some cases it may be presented to a judge and therefore made into an order of the court.

Alimony

Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse during separation or following divorce. Also called spousal support or spousal maintenance.

Appeal

The formal request to an appellate court to review the ruling made in a lower trial court to determine if that courts decision is accurate.

Appellate Court

A court that hears cases (that have been previously decided by a trial court) to determine if the trial court made the correct decision.

Arbitration

A court-like process where each party presents their issues to an impartial third party (arbitrator) and requests that the arbitrator make a final binding decision.

Arrearage

The amount of money such as for child or spousal support that is past due.

Bankruptcy

A legal proceeding to obtain relief from the obligation to pay debt. These actions are filed in federal court and may include getting extra time to pay or be discharged of the debt.

Child Support

Money ordered by a court to be paid by one parent for expenses incurred in raising a child. Support is usually paid to the custodial parent and is for food, housing, education, clothing and other necessary expenses.

Child Support Guidelines

The statutory rules used by the court to determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid by the parents based upon their gross income (includes wages, salaries, interest, dividend and investment income).

Claim

A request or demand made of another person.

Contempt of Court

A determination by the court that a party failed to comply with a judgment, court order or decree.

Contested

Issues that have not been resolved by agreement of the parties.

Court Order

The court's written ruling defining the parties rights and responsibilities regarding the subject of the order. May be drafted by an attorney and signed by the court.

Cross Examination

The questioning of other parties witness at trial to elicit the credibility and weakness of the witnesses' testimony. The scope of cross examination questions are limited to the questions that were asked during a direct examination. New issues may not be introduced and asked of the witness on cross examination.

Custody

An order granted by the court establishing either the mother or the father as the primary (custodial) parent. Custody includes legal (decision making) and physical (where the child primarily resides) decisions.

Custody Study

A study performed by a court appointed examiner, usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to make a recommendation to the court as to the appropriate custody and visitation arrangements. Also called a visitation study.

Decree

The court's written order or decision finalizing the divorce, often issued in conjunction with the court's judgment.

Default

Failing to answer a petition or complaint for divorce. Failing to file an answer or appear in court as required can result in the court awarding to the spouse who filed for divorce everything requested in his or her divorce papers.

Defendant

The person against whom legal papers are filed, also sometimes referred to as the respondent.

Deposition

The purpose of a deposition is to ask questions and solicit responses under oath to obtain the witnesses position. A deposition generally takes place in a law office, where the attorneys, their clients, witnesses and a court reporter are present.

Direct Examination

The questioning of a witness offered by a party at trial to elicit testimony and/or evidence.

Discovery

A term used to refer to the fact finding process used to uncover information, gather records and determine if disclosures are valid.

Dissolution

Another word for divorce, which is the legal termination of a

marriage relationship.

Divorce

The legal termination of a marriage relationship.

Domestic Violence

Physical abuse or threats of abuse occurring between members of the same household.

Due Diligence

An act of looking at assets and liabilities of the opposing party to confirm the accuracy.

Equitable distribution

A division of property that is fair in view of all of the circumstances. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal.

Ex Parte

Going to the court to get the court to do something that does not grant affirmative relief; such as obtaining a status quo order or signing of an order to set a future hearing.

Expert Witness

An individual retained for the purposes of being a witness to provide evidence to the court on the value or appropriate method of dealing with things because of that individual's prior experience or training.

FAPA

Is an acronym for the "Family Abuse Prevention Act." This Act allows a person to obtain a physical restraining order against their spouse, someone they cohabitated with, or are related to by blood or marriage if they have been abused.

Fee Agreement

An agreement or contract between a client and an attorney which sets out the nature and scope of the contract services between them.

Financial Restraining Order

An order signed by the court prohibiting either party from selling marital assets or incurring additional marital debt during the pendency of the case.

Financial Statement

A document setting out what the assets and liabilities of the business or individual person making the report at a particular time.

Garnishment

A process provided by statute, that allows a person to collect on a specific type of obligation by withdrawing an amount from property or income of another.

Hearing

A short trial to decide temporary issues before the final trial takes place. Each party has the opportunity to present evidence in the form of testimony from the witnesses or written exhibits.

Injunction

A court order forbidding someone from doing a certain act that is likely to cause physical or mental injury or property loss to another party.

Judgment of Dissolution

The name of the final court order ending the marriage.

Legal custody

The sharing of the actual physical care and custody of a child by both parents.

Legal Separation

An order of a court dividing the parties assets and liabilities assessing the support but not terminating the marriage.

Lis Pendens

A legal document filed in the county where real property (land) is located to give notice to anyone that a legal action is pending.

Marital Property

Assets that the court determines to be owned jointly by the parties regardless of the manner in which title is held. Items acquired that the court deems to be owned by both regardless of how title is held.

Mediation

A process by which parties bring an issue or issues before a neutral third party (the mediator), whose role is to facilitate settlement of the issues. A mediator has no power to force settlement of the issues.

Memorandum

A brief written memo to the court outlining the issues at a hearing or trial with supporting case law and facts.

Modification

An action brought or order granting a change in a final order as to custody, visitation, child support, and or spousal support. The property division of a final court order once established can not be modified.

Motion

A request of the court to do something.

No Fault

In Oregon, neither party needs to prove "fault" for the court to order the marriage dissolved.

Non-custodial parent

The parent who does not have physical custody of the child(ren).

Non Joint Children

The children of one party, not born to or adopted by the other spouse in the proceeding (e.g. children from a prior marriage).

Non-marital property

Generally, property owned by either spouse prior to marriage or acquired by them individually, such as by gift or inheritance, during the marriage.

Parenting Plan

A document that is filed after parties have reached an agreement or after ordered by the court which sets forth the schedule for each parent's time with the children. A parenting plan may also include guidelines as to how parenting time is to be conducted and rights and responsibilities of the parents in relation to the children.

Parenting Time Schedule (new name for visitation)

An approved schedule for the children to spend time with both parents. This schedule typically includes weekly, holiday, vacations, birthdays, and other important dates and states how the times will be shared. See 'Parenting Plan' above.

Pendente Lite

A temporary order that lasts until the final divorce. Generally addressing who lives in the home, the schedule for the children and support.

Petition

A written application for particular relief from the court.

Petitioner

The person who is the moving party, the one who asks the court initially for relief.

Protective Order of Restraint (Status Quo Order)

An order signed by the court that preserves the status quo of the child(ren) with respect to their daily activities. This order may also limit the parents from removing the child(ren) from the State of Oregon.

Physical Custody

Declares which parent the child will reside with (the custodial parent) and which parent will have a parenting time schedule (the non-custodial parent).

Premarital agreement

An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party's rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreement

An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party's rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a premarital agreement.

Pre-Trial Status Conference

A conference between the attorneys and the judge prior to trial to discuss the status of the case and the potential for settlement. It may be done either in person or by phone.

Process Server

A person 18 years of age or older not a party to the action whose job it is to serve legal papers on another individual.

Privilege

A statutory right to speak to another individual in which your conversation is deemed to be protected. This is a limited privilege such as attorney/client privilege that has specific requirements and exceptions.

Property Settlement

Division of property in a dissolution or legal separation. This division may be agreed to and affirmed by the court or it may be ordered by the court after a contested hearing.

Property Valuations

A value placed upon a piece of property either real or personal. The court's finding of the value is the ultimate decision.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

Pronounced "kwah-dro," an order issued by the court to divide retirement benefits.

Respondent

The person against whom an action is filed.

Response

The pleading filed in answer to the allegations of a petition.

Restraining Order

An order forbidding one or more parties in a case from doing particular acts. Often issued in conjunction with domestic violence or custody disputes.

Retainer

A fee paid in advance to an attorney and/or expert for services to be performed.

Served/ Service

Receiving legal documents. Rules for being served are set out in the statute.

Settlement

The agreed upon resolution of disputed issues.

Settlement Agreement

A settlement reduced to a written document. A settlement must generally be reduced to a order or judgment and signed by a judge to be binding on the parties.

Settlement conference

A meeting at which the parties and their lawyers attempt to settle the case before trial, often ordered by the court.

Show Cause

A hearing before a court requesting that the other side appear and show cause why something should not happen. For example: modifying parenting time.

Split Custody

A form of custody generally not looked upon favorably in which some or one of the parties' children is/are in the custody of one parent and the remaining child(ren) is/are in the custody of the other parent.

Spousal Support

An amount of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse during separation (Pendente Lite) or after the parties are divorced. The statute sets out the basis for such payments.

Transitional Support. The judge looks at what support is needed to assist the spouse in re-entering the work force. Funds can be used for education or retraining.

Compensatory Support. The judge determines an amount of support that compensates one spouse for supporting the other's education, career, or earning ability.

Spousal Maintenance. The judge considers what support is appropriate to keep a standard of living similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage.

Statutes

The written laws of a state. In Oregon it is called the Oregon Revised Statutes, (ORS).

Status Quo Order

An order continuing the current state of affairs.

Stipulation

A formal agreement between the parties or attorneys on behalf of parties relating to a matter of procedures or fact.

Subpoena

A command to appear at a certain time and place either to give testimony or to bring documents.

Summons

A written notification to the respondent that an action has been commenced against him or her and requiring the respondent to appear within a specific period of time to answer the allegations of the petition.

Testimony

Statements under oath by a witness or a party in a court hearing or deposition.

Trial

The process by which the parties present evidence and witness testimony before a judge for the purpose of having the court making a determination.

Uniform Support Affidavit

A document eliciting information concerning the income and expense of a party. In Oregon it must be filed if there is a request for child or spousal support.

Vacated

An order of the court canceling or rescinding a prior order of the court.

Visitation Study

An evaluation usually done by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to make a recommendation to the parties and or the court as to the appropriate parenting time schedule for that particular family. Also called a custody study.

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