Common Divorce Terms Defined & Explained


Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Terminology

Do you have a question about what a particular legal term in regards to divorce means? Are you confused about some of the common divorce terminology? There's a lot to take in and consider. Here, we've put together a list of some of the most common divorce terms and phrases with easy to understand definitions to help you sort through the chaos and clutter.

Divorce Glossary & Terminology

  1. Absolute Divorce: Absolute divorce is the final legal conclusion of the marriage and the divorce process. At this stage, all issues have been resolved, and both parties are then also allowed to legally enter into a new marriage.
  2. Annulment: Annulment is a process during which a marriage is dissolved with an outcome which essentially states the marriage never took place to begin with. Maryland has very strict and limiting grounds for annulment such as one party coercing the other to be married, or one party living with another spouse at the time of the marriage.
  3. Alimony: Alimony is the money that one party is required to pay the other as dictated by the court's decision. There are many different ways in which alimony can be determined and factors by which it's impacted, and it's a separate consideration from child support.
  4. Child Custody: Child custody is the process of determining which party obtains custody of the child, i.e., continues to live with and support the child as the custodial parent. Sole custody or joint custody may be awarded in different scenarios. See more Maryland child custody FAQs here.
  5. Child Support: Child support is the amount of money one party provides to another for the direct needs of the child. In Maryland general expenses such as food, shelter or clothing are not a factor, and child support remains until the minor turns 18, or 19, if the child did not yet graduate from high school. See more Maryland child support FAQs here.
  6. Common Law Marriage: Common law marriages occur in situations when the parties agree to be married and live together as husband and wife, but have not been formally, legally married. Common law marriages are not recognized by the state of Maryland.
  7. Discovery: Discovery is the process during which more relevant information is able to be obtained. The two most common varieties of discovery are interrogatories, of which Maryland allows up to thirty, as well as Requests for Production of Documents, of which there is no limit.
  8. Grounds for Divorce: The grounds for divorce are all of the different reasons for which a divorce may be filed. In some instances, certain states have different allowable grounds than other states, or differing definitions of the same grounds.
  9. Limited Divorce: A limited divorce is put into place when a couple has been separated, to legally establish certain responsibilities or resolve certain issues pertaining to the divorce. However, the divorce process has not been finalized and the marriage is not yet legally over.
  10. Martial Property: Marital property refers to certain of the property acquired by both parties over the course of the marriage. The property typically does not need to be legally titled to both parties in order to be considered as such.
  11. Mediation: Mediation is a nonbinding process in which the two parties try to resolve issues related to their divorce via a mediator, as opposed to the ruling of a judge in court. This offers more control to the parties, as well as the prospects of a potentially less stressful and hostile outcome.
  12. Mutual Consent: Mutual consent is a relatively new grounds for divorce within the state of Maryland. If a couple has no children and have no outstanding issues left to resolve in terms of finances or property, they may forego the typically mandatory 12 month separation period and immediately file for absolute divorce.
  13. No Fault Divorce: With a no fault divorce, neither party is attempting to prove one of the specific grounds for divorce such as adultery or abuse. Irreconcilable differences and/or a 12 month separation period may then be applied as grounds for divorce.
  14. Pendente Lite: Pendente lite translates to "pending the litigation," and as such, it's a temporary filing to arrange for child custody, child support, alimony, visitation and related issues to be put into place between your case being filed and then ultimately resolved.
  15. Prenuptial Agreement: Prenuptial agreements are signed legal agreements put into places before a marriage occurs, often dealing with financial or property issues.
  16. Separation: Legally, separation occurs when a couple no longer lives in the same residence, and no longer has sexual relations. A 12 month separation window may be used as a grounds for divorce in Maryland. See more Maryland separation FAQs here.
  17. Separation Agreement: A separation agreement is a voluntary, but potentially useful, legal agreement which outlines potential issues, whether they're in terms of living arrangements, child custody or support, finances and property, and so forth. In Maryland you are never legally obligated to file a separation agreement but doing so may prevent further headache down the road.
  18. Subpoena: A subpoena is a court order that requires either the presence of the individual being subpoenaed, or to showcase or produce a specific document or other item.
  19. Uncontested Divorce: Uncontested divorces occur when the two parties have no issues left to resolve which the court needs to rule upon, and neither side is disputing or attempting to stop the divorce proceedings.
  20. Visitation: Visitation rights may be granted to the noncustodial parent for specific amounts of time, and potentially, under additional, specific conditions.

Finding the Right Divorce Attorney

Now that you've gotten a sense of some of the most important divorce terms and definitions to understand, it may be time to take the next step and find the right divorce attorney to work with. There are a variety of different factors to consider, and the right attorney for one person may not be the right one for another.

To begin with, look for a person who's not only experienced, but is well-versed within your local area. State by state regulations are different, and it's crucial to have a solid understanding of the local legislative considerations.

Finally, also consider your personal interaction with the attorney. You want someone whom you feel on the same page with in terms of your one-on-one interactions, and also how they will approach the case.

Hopefully you've learned a little bit about divorce via our above common divorce terms glossary, along with our information on selecting the correct divorce attorney. Feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments.

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