The following glossary of divorce and family law terms is found at and adapted from Minnesota based

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – is a global term used to describe a process of guided communication between two or more parties in a dispute to find an acceptable resolution. ADR is a way to resolve disputes without going to court. Judges may require parties to try ADR to resolve their issues in family law cases.

Custody – Parenting arrangements when parents divorce or aren’t married. Types of custody are defined as below by Minnesota law unless otherwise agreed by the parties involved:

  • Legal Custody means the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care and religious training.
  • Joint Legal Custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions determining the child’s upbringing, including education, health care and religious training.
  • Physical custody and residence means the routine daily care and control and the residence of the child.
  • Joint Physical Custody means that routine daily care and control and the residence of the child is structured between the parties.

Guardian ad Litem (GAL) – Guardians ad litem are special advocates for children involved in the court process either through Juvenile, Civil or Family Court. A GAL may be a state employee, a state contract employee, or a trained volunteer. All GAL’s must meet state requirements for training and competency.

Legal Advocates – Legal Advocates work or volunteer at community programs, providing support to victims of domestic abuse. They explain the legal process, provide information and give referrals to legal or social service agencies. Although an advocate may accompany you to court he/she cannot speak for you. If you use an advocate, you are acting as your own attorney.

Mediation – is a form of ADR in which an impartial third party facilitates an agreement between two or more parties in a proceeding.

Mediation-Arbitration (Med-Arb) – is a hybrid of mediation and arbitration in which the parties initially mediate their disputes, with the understanding that they will arbitrate any deadlocked issues. As with mediation, the purpose of Med-Arb is to assist parents in developing a mutually agreeable plan. When agreement cannot be reached the arbitrator makes an informed award. Either party may appeal the decision to the Court.

Mediator – Mediators are professionals trained to help you and the other parent define problems, identify options and reach mutually agreeable solutions. A mediator will not make decisions for the parents or make parents take actions that they prefer not to take.

Paralegals – Paralegals and legal assistants are non-lawyers who perform work usually done by a lawyer. They may research the law, draft documents, determine facts and provide procedural information. A paralegal who offers a legal opinion or advice without attorney supervision is breaking the law by practicing law without a license.

Parenting Agreement Worksheet – A tool to assist parents in planning time schedules and communication.

Parenting Consultant – Individual appointed by stipulation of the parties or order of the court to assist the parties with communication and cooperation regarding parenting issues, meeting the children’s needs and addressing the best interests of the children. This individual may consult with other professionals working with the parents and children. Parents will mutually agree upon the selection of the consultant and will sign an independent contract with the consultant that outlines the duties and authority of the consultant.

Parenting Plan – A written agreement between parents not living together who have a child or children in common, dealing with parenting decision-making, disagreement resolution, residential arrangements and parenting time.

Parenting Time – The time a parent spends with a child regardless of the custodial designation of the child. . . .

Residence – The place where a party has established a permanent home from which the party has no present intention of moving.