Family Law Terms and Definitions

Adoption
Legal process pursuant to state statute in which a child's legal rights and duties toward his natural parents are terminated and similar rights and duties toward his adoptive parents are substituted.

Spousal Support
Money paid after divorce to former spouse for support, usually for a specified period of time, by court order or written agreement.

Annulment
A legal proceeding in which the marriage is declared void, as though it never took place. In the eyes of the law, the parties were never married. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.

Child Support
A payment that a noncustodial parent makes as a contribution to the costs of raising her or his child.

Custody
Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody is the decision-making part: physical custody refers to where the child lives on a regular basis. Generally, the parent the child does not live with will be allowed to have regular visits with the child.

Dissolution
The ending of a partnership relationship caused by the withdrawal of one of the partners from the relationship.

Divorce
The legal termination of a marriage. All states require a spouse to identify a legal reason for requesting a divorce when that spouse files the divorce papers with the court.

Domestic Violence
Physical abuse or threats of abuse occurring between members of the same household.

Guardian ad Litem
A neutral person appointed by the court to investigate facts, report to the court and make recommendations to the court about what parenting plan is in the best interest of the children.

Joint Legal Custody
The sharing, by both parents, of the right to make important decisions about a child's welfare.

Legal Separation
Court order allowing spouses to live separate and apart while remaining legally married.

Mediation
A settlement of a dispute or controversy by setting up an independent person between two contending parties in order to aid them in the settlement of their disagreement.

Non-Custodial Parent
The parent who does not have physical custody of the child(ren).

Paternity Test
A test proving the identity of a child's biological father through scientific methods.

Petitioner
Often, the person who initiates divorce or marriage dissolution proceedings, also called the plaintiff.

Prenuptial Agreement
An agreement made by a couple before marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property, and sometimes whether alimony will be paid if the couple later divorces. Also known as a premarital agreement.

Spouse
A husband or wife.

Visitation
The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to a parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child.

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Delaware, OH 43015

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