Skip to Content
Claery & Hammond, LLP Claery & Hammond, LLP
Los Angeles 310-817-6904
San Diego 760-870-4900

Decoding the Legal Jargon in Divorce Discourse

A Legal Team You Can Trust

Understanding the legal terms of divorce is crucial for anyone navigating this challenging process. Legal jargon can often seem like a foreign language, filled with complex terms and phrases that can be difficult to understand without a legal background. However, grasping this vocabulary is more than just a matter of linguistic proficiency; it's about gaining the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions during one of life's most stressful transitions.

When you comprehend the legal terms in divorce proceedings, you are better equipped to understand your options, anticipate potential outcomes, and effectively communicate your needs and concerns. This empowerment through knowledge helps reduce the anxiety and uncertainty often accompanying divorce proceedings. It enables you to participate actively in your case rather than feel like a passive observer whose fate is decided by others.

Working with a family law attorney is essential in navigating the maze of legal terms and procedures. An experienced lawyer doesn’t just translate the complex legal language; they provide crucial context, present strategic options, and forecast potential outcomes. Their insights can demystify the legal process and help you make decisions with a full understanding of their implications.

If you are experiencing the challenges of divorce in Los Angeles and are overwhelmed by the legal jargon, you do not have to face it alone. Schedule a consultation with Claery & Hammond, LLP by calling us at (310) 817-6904 or messaging us online.

Common Legal Terms in a Divorce

Navigating a divorce involves understanding various legal terms that define the processes and responsibilities of the parties.

Below is a breakdown of some standard terms that you will likely encounter during divorce proceedings:

  • Dissolution of marriage. "Dissolution of marriage" is the formal legal term for divorce. It refers to the process by which a legally married couple legally ends their marriage. This process involves several steps, starting with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in court. This term is not to be confused with a summary dissolution, an abbreviated form of the process available to couples who have been married or in a domestic partnership for less than five years and meet specific other criteria, such as having no children and limited assets and debts.
  • Petitioner and respondent. In divorce proceedings, the petitioner is the spouse who initiates the divorce by filing the petition. The petitioner sets the divorce process in motion and must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse, who is known as the respondent. The respondent then can file a response to the petition, agreeing to or disputing the terms proposed by the petitioner.
  • Alimony/spousal support. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a financial support payment from one spouse to the other following a divorce. Alimony aims to mitigate any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. Factors affecting the determination of alimony include the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the earning capacity of each spouse.

Child-Related Legalities

During a divorce, understanding the terms related to the care and support of children is crucial for both parents. These terms often involve custody arrangements, visitation rights, and child support obligations, each carrying significant implications for the family's future dynamics.

Let’s look at some of the child-related terms you may encounter:

  • Custody (physical and legal). Custody refers to parents' rights and responsibilities regarding their children’s upbringing. The two main types of custody are physical and legal. Physical custody determines with whom the child will live. Legal custody, on the other hand, pertains to the right to make important decisions about a child's life, including education, health care, and religious upbringing. Both types of custody can be awarded solely to one parent or shared between both.
  • Visitation. Visitation, or parenting time, refers to the schedule that dictates how the parent who does not have primary physical custody, often called the non-custodial parent, spends time with the children. Visitation can be classified in several ways: fixed, reasonable, supervised, or none.
  • Child support. Child support is a payment made by one parent to another to assist with the financial responsibilities associated with raising a child. The non-custodial parent usually makes this payment to the one with primary physical custody. The amount of child support is determined by a formula that considers several factors, including the incomes of both parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement.

These terms form the backbone of how parents will continue to raise their children post-divorce, emphasizing the law’s focus on the child's best interests.

Terms Related to Financial Aspects

Divorce not only affects personal relationships but also has significant economic implications for both parties. Understanding the critical financial aspects of divorce is crucial for fair and equitable asset division.

Here’s an overview of the primary financial terms you need to know:

  • Community property state. California is a community property state, which impacts how assets and debts are handled during a divorce. Under the law, the presumption is that all property acquired during the marriage is community property and should, therefore, be divided equally between the spouses upon divorce. This approach aims for a 50/50 split, promoting fairness and equality in the division process.
  • Community vs. separate property. Community property includes all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage. These are considered jointly owned and are typically divided equally in the event of a divorce. Separate property, on the other hand, refers to assets acquired before the marriage or after separation, as well as gifts or inheritances received during the marriage. This type of property is owned solely by the individual spouse. It is usually not subject to division during divorce proceedings.
  • QDRO. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a legal order associated with a divorce that updates ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse their share of the asset or pension plan. QDROs are crucial because they legally allow one party to receive a portion of the benefits accrued by the other party’s retirement plans.

Understanding these financial aspects is vital in navigating the economic complexities of divorce. Properly managing the division of property and assets can lead to more satisfactory outcomes for both parties.

Legal Jargon Associated with Proceedings and Documentation

Navigating the legal framework of a divorce involves several vital documents and procedures that both parties must understand and complete to facilitate a smooth and lawful dissolution of marriage.

Below, we examine some of these critical components:

  • Summons and Petition. The formal divorce process begins with filing two fundamental documents: the Petition and the Summons. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is a crucial document that outlines the basic information about the marriage, such as the date of marriage, the grounds for divorce, and specific requests regarding spousal support, child custody, and property division. On the other hand, the Summons is an official notification to the other spouse, known as the respondent, that divorce proceedings have been initiated.
  • Declaration of Disclosure. A critical aspect of pursuing a fair and equitable divorce settlement is the complete and transparent exchange of financial information between the spouses. This exchange is facilitated through the Declaration of Disclosure, a cover sheet summarizing shared information. The spouses must also file Income and Expense Declarations and the Schedule of Assets and Debts.
  • Final Judgment. The culmination of the divorce process is the Final Judgment, which is the legal order that officially ends the marriage. A judge must sign this document to be valid. The Final Judgment not only declares the dissolution of marriage but also encompasses all agreements and court decisions regarding spousal support, child custody, property division, and any other pertinent issues.

These documents form the foundation of the legal process and allow the dissolution of marriage to be conducted fairly and per the law.

Consult with a Legal Professional for Personalized Guidance

Divorce is an emotional and legal journey requiring a clear comprehension of the terms and conditions that will affect your future. Knowledge of the legal aspects can significantly impact the outcomes of your divorce, influencing everything from financial settlements to custody arrangements.

An attorney can provide clarity, helping you fully understand the implications of your decisions. More importantly, they can assist in navigating the often turbulent waters of divorce proceedings, advocating for your interests and striving for a favorable outcome.

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we practice family law and assist clients in Los Angeles through their cases. Please call (310) 817-6904 or contact us online to speak with one of our attorneys.


Contact Us Today

Put Your Case in Qualified Hands
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • By submitting, you agree to be contacted about your request & other information using automated technology. Message frequency varies. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Acceptable Use Policy
  • Featured Los Angeles Times Family Law Practitioners 

  • We Provide Unique, Tailor-Made Solutions for Each Client

  • We Offer a Free Initial Case Consultation
  • Our Team Has Over 50 Years of Combined Experience
  • Our  Attorneys Handle All Types of Family Court Issues
  • We Solely Focus on the Areas of Divorce and Family Law