Divorce is an extremely stressful situation and the legalese speak involved in the process can seem intimidating at first since most of you facing the prospects of divorce won’t be lawyers. One of the first things I did to prepare when I got served was to search out my states divorce process and learn the legal lingo. Getting comfortable with the legal lingo and understanding how the process worked did a lot to get me mentally ready for the next steps and helped me minimize the financial hit I would take due to the divorce. Every state is a little bit different but here are the common divorce terms that you need to learn and understand.
Petition for divorce – Request for divorce to legally end your marriage filed by the petitioner.
Petition for annulment – Request for an annulment saying there was never a legal marriage in the first place due to the inability to consent, marriage not being consummated, or other criteria that is state dependent.
Response to divorce – The respondent’s reply to the request for divorce
Counterclaim – A challenge maid to important facts related to the petition for divorce
Petitioner – The person filing for the divorce. 85% of the time that will be the artist formally known as your wife.
Respondent – The person who responds to the petition for divorce aka you.
Summons – Your notice of pending legal action of the divorce signifying your need to respond to the petition and/or appear in court depending on your state process.
Jurisdiction – Term signifying that the state has the official power to hear and decide on your case
Clerk of the Court – Person(s) that issues the summons and is involved with collecting/processing the paperwork related to the divorce case.
Preliminary injunction – Constraints/requirements that you must comply with as soon as you are served that must be abided by until your divorce case is legally decided. Meant to restrict people from what is considered “unfair” behavior such as cleaning out joint bank accounts.
Alimony – Court ordered provision for a spouse after divorce aka payment for services no longer rendered. Especially objectionable in no fault divorce cases.
Attorney’s Fees – Self explanatory although your spouse may request you pay their fees two for the price of both! Try to minimize these by working with your ex and using paralegals where you can.
Temporary Alimony – Ouch, they want you to pay prior to even being formally divorced.
Marital property – Property acquired during marriage even if not titled in both of your names (and often value increases in property owned prior unless you had a prenup)
“Misconduct” – Conduct so destructive to the marriage that there are valid reasons to end the union as opposed to no fault divorce. Examples of misconduct vary but often include adultery, bigamy, conviction of a crime the sentence for which might be incarceration for 1 or more years, physical or other forms of abuse, willful refusal to perform marriage obligations, contracting venereal disease, substance abuse.
“Incompatibility” – Polite term for no fault divorce
Resumption of maiden name – Giving her back in a formal legal sense. If she had a hyphen she probably drops it, but either way your close to the finish line.
Hearing – Formal process if a judge will be hearing your case. A lot of divorces these days skip the hearing if things can be decided via the paperwork and negotiations ahead of time.
Decree of the court – The decision of the court related to the divorce and formal allocation of assets.
Domestic violence – Hopefully this term doesn’t come up in your process otherwise you are in for a difficult journey that is beyond the scope of this post. Unsavory lawyers often recommend this as a strategy if the divorce is knock down drag out to get you out of your house and away from your kids.
You will notice custody of children is not covered here. In most states that is a separate process that is covered by the family court. If anyone needs any divorce guidance from an experienced non lawyer I would be happy to help (all liability waived blah blah blah it is free advice/support and should be treated as such)