The following are common terms used in divorce cases and their meanings, as offered from a financial planner’s persepctive.

SOURCE: Horizon Financial Planning Corp.

AFFIDAVIT

A declaration made under oath and filed in writing with a court officer.

ALIMONY

See maintenance.

ANTENUPTIAL AGREEMENT

A written contract signed before marriage by an engaged man and woman to indicate the future disposition of property and support arrangements in case of divorce or death following the marriage.

APPEAL

A request for new consideration of a lawsuit by a higher court.  May reverse or amend prior ruling.

APPELLATE JUDGE

The judge who hears and rules on an appeal from a trial judge’s decision in a case.

ARBITRATION

A process for resolving a dispute using a third individual selected by the two opposing sides, who agree to abide by that person’s decision.

ASSETS

Tangible possessions, such as cash, investments, property, and personal belongings, as well as intangibles, such as accounts receivable and goodwill.  Assets are divided into premarital (acquired before marriage) and marital (acquired after marriage).

COMMINGLING

The mixing together of marital and nonmarital funds.  Or the intentional merging of one spouse’s funds with those of the other.

COMMON LAW

The body of law originating in England and developed through court decisions in the United States, as opposed to more formal laws dictated by statute.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY

The property a couple acquires while married.

COMPLAINT

See petition.

COUNSEL; CO-COUNSEL

The attorney representing a party in a court action, such as a divorce suit, co-counsel is a second lawyer assisting with the case.

CUSTODY

The right to maintain guardianship of a minor specifically as awarded by a court or as agreed to by the parents or others who have a significant relationship with the minor.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

The questioning of a witness in a hearing or trial by the lawyer representing the opposing side; typically follows direct examination by the lawyer who first called the witness to testify.

DEPOSITION

A declaration of facts while under oath as part of the discovery process preceding a scheduled trial.

DIRECT EXAMINATION

The questioning of a witness in a hearing or trial by the lawyer who called the witness to testify.

DISCOVERY

The court-sanctioned process of gathering facts before a trial to enable the lawyers, experts, clients and witnesses on both sides to prepare their cases.

DIVORCE DECREE

The court order granting a divorce in some states called a “decree of dissolution.”

CDS

CERTIFIED DIVORCE SPECIALIST – An individual who has completed specialized training in the financial aspects of divorce.

CDFA® CERTIFIED DIVORCE FINANCIAL ANALYSTAn individual who has completed specialized training in the financial aspects of divorce.
CFDP® Certified Financial Divorce Practitioner – An individual who has completed specialized training in the financial aspects of divorce.

EARNED INCOME

Income derived from a paid activity, either mental or physical, as opposed to passive income that accumulates through investments.

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION

The “equitable” or fair division of marital assets by a court that takes into consideration some or all of the following: spouse’s ages, health, employment history, earning potential, sources of income, and allocation of debts; the length of the marriage; and the tax consequences of distribution contributions, including homemaker dissipation.

EXHIBIT

Correspondence, documentation, financial records, and other written information, as well as videotapes, audio tapes, charts, photographs, computer tapes, or any other materials that a lawyer formally presents to a court in support of a case.

EXPERT

A person of recognized knowledge and expertise who can comment authoritatively on an issue in a trial and who often is asked to give an opinion with regard to the specific facts in the trial to help the court reach a decision.

FAULT

The cause for the breakup of a marriage and subsequent divorce, one indicating blame, as opposed to no-fault divorce.

GIFT

Money or property given to an individual during a marriage by a spouse, relative, or any third party that is considered the sole property of that individual.

GOOD WILL

The monetary value attached to a business or professional practice in excess of hard assets, such as real estate, equipment and supplies, and accounts receivable; this value represents intangibles, such as reputation and the development of return business.

INHERITANCE

Money or property acquired by an individual spouse during a marriage through a bequest in a will that is considered the sole property of that individual.

JOINT CUSTODY

The sharing of child-rearing responsibilities by divorced spouses; it may be joint legal custody, requiring shared decision making, or joint physical custody, requiring an approximately equal sharing of the child’s time spent in the parents’ two homes.

LITIGATION

A lawsuit; also the process of formally presenting arguments by the opposing sides in a lawsuit before a judge, jury, or other court officer.

MAINTENANCE

A more modern term for alimony, taking several forms:  (1) long term periodic payments by one ex-spouse to the other to meet expenses while maintaining the life-style of the former marriage; (2) a lump sum payment at the time of divorce, usually occurring in cases of wealthier couples; and (3) short term periodic payments, called “rehabilitative” maintenance, to support the divorced spouse during a time of further education and job training.

MARITAL ASSETS

Money and property earned during the marriage by either spouse.

MEDIATION

The process by which an objective third party tries to help the opposing parties in an argument or lawsuit decide how to resolve their differences.

MOTION

A formal request for a ruling from a court, usually asking that a particular action be directed to take place.

NEGOTIATION

The act of trying to reach a resolution to an argument or lawsuit through discussion between the two sides.

NO-FAULT DIVORCE

A form of divorce now available in all states in which neither party is blamed or found guilty of ending the marriage.

PASSIVE INCOME

Income earned through investments already in place.  Example:  interest on savings, dividends on stock.

PETITION

A legal document filed with a court requesting court action; also called a “complaint”.

PLEADING

A legal document filed with a court with facts and sometimes arguments supporting a request for court action.

POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENT

A written contract signed after a marriage by a husband and wife to indicate the future disposition of property in case of divorce or the death of either spouse.

PRECEDENT

A court ruling that serves as an example for resolving future similar arguments or cases.

PREMARITAL ASSETS

Money and property owned by either spouse before the marriage and maintained separately from marital assets.

PRETRIAL PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT

See antenuptial agreement.

REHABILITATION

The education and training of a spouse after divorce to enable that person to find a job and become self-supporting.

RETAINER

The payment a client gives a lawyer when the lawyer agrees to take on the client’s case.

RETAINER AGREEMENT

The written contract between the client and the lawyer indicating the terms of the retainer, such as whether future work and expenses will be billed against that advance payment.

SEPARATE PROPERTY

Assets owned by either spouse before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance are considered differently from items acquired during the marriage and simply placed in the name of either spouse.

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

An understanding approved by a court setting forth the terms of a divorce, particularly with regard to custody of children, division of assets, maintenance, and child support.

SOLE CUSTODY

The assignment of child-rearing responsibilities, both physical and legal, to one spouse.

TESTIMONY

Statements of fact and opinions offered by an individual while under oath during a legal proceeding.

TRACING

The tracking of assets in a marriage from the present back to their original source.

TRANSCRIPT

The written recording of words spoken by the parties in a case, their lawyers, witnesses, and the judge during a legal proceeding; may also include exhibits that pertain to that proceeding.

TRIAL

The legal proceeding before a judge and sometimes a jury allowing the two sides of a case to argue their respective views and to offer supporting witnesses and evidence before a final ruling is made.

VALUATION

The assignment of a monetary worth to a particular asset, usually by an expert knowledgeable about that kind of asset.

WITNESS

A person testifying in a legal proceeding under oath.