Legal agreements full of divorce jargon

Divorce Terms Lawyers Expect You to Know

Going through a divorce is a difficult experience for everyone involved. Legal words used in divorce documents can add to the frustration, especially when you don’t know their meanings. Having an understanding of some of the most commonly used verbiage may help ease confusion and give you confidence during your divorce process.

No-fault Divorce

Almost every state honors a no-fault divorce. This means a divorce will be granted on the grounds that issues between two married people cannot be resolved. Neither person has to prove that the other did something wrong. A breakdown of the marriage is the only requirement for a no-fault divorce.

Irreconcilable Differences

This term simply means that spouses cannot work through their circumstances or differences. The parties have further decided that there is no chance of resolving these issues and have requested that the marriage be ended permanently through divorce.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is similar to a divorce except that the couple remains legally married. Each person lives in a separate residence, and the court system provides orders and guidelines for the couple to live by in the form of a separation agreement. This is especially true when children are involved. Custody arrangements and a visitation schedule are still established and followed as with an actual divorce. Many times, people opt for a legal separation and use the time apart to work on differences and possibly even seek counseling in an effort to mend their marriage.

Custody Laws

Each state will have a different protocol for handling custody in separation and divorce cases. Custody law dictates everything from who has primary custody to visitation schedules to even who can babysit the children in some circumstances. If you have kids, you should consider finding a lawyer who specializes in divorce custody laws.

Equitable Distribution

When a couple purchases an asset such as property while they are married, a decision must be made as to how that property will be divided once the divorce is final. This generally does not apply to property acquired prior to the marriage. The property is not always divided into half; rather, multiple factors are taken into consideration when determining the split.

There are only a few states that do not practice equitable distribution. You will want to do some research to see if your state acknowledges this and what the guidelines are.

Asking Your Lawyer for Help

While you will likely learn more terms relating to divorce throughout the course of your case, learning those above will give you greater understanding of the process. Your divorce lawyer is hopefully an expert in this type of terminology, so always ask him or her for detailed definitions of words if you feel confused.

Last Updated: September 23, 2015