July 22, 2014 By Paul Wallin

If you are going through a divorce, child custody battle, or any other family law matter, the various legal terms used in your case can be baffling. Having an experienced attorney by your side through this process will certainly help you with the confusion. However, you can get a head start on your case by familiarizing yourself with a few important family law terms. Let’s take a look at several of them…

  1. Legal Separation (vs. Divorce)

If you and your spouse have hit a rough patch that you cannot seem to get past, divorce is not necessarily the only option. If you file for Legal Separation you may be able to address the issues the legal issues of your relationship without having to become legal divorced.  For example, you can obtain a court order regarding dividing up property obtained during the marriage, child and spousal support, and custody and visitation schedules for your children.

  1. “Status Only Bifurcation”

Family law terms
Family law terms you should know

If you are currently going through a divorce and the final settlement seems to be taking too long, a “Status Only Bifurcation” may be in your benefit. This allows you and your ex-spouse to be legally declared as single persons. While a Status Only Bifurcation does not affect any other aspect of your divorce (such as, child custody, property division, spousal support, etc.), it can allow you to restore your “single” status while you wait for the other aspects of your divorce to be resolved.

You may desire a Status Only Bifurcation for the purposes of:

  • Filing your income taxes as “single,” instead of a married person;
  • Marrying another person while the divorce proceedings are still wrapping up; or
  • Simply restoring your single status because the rest of the proceedings are taking too long.
  1. Post Judgment Motion

If you are unhappy with the final judgment in your family law case for any reason, you and your attorney may be able to request a court hearing to address your concerns by filing a post judgment motion. This allows you to request the Court to change an aspect of the final judgment. For example, you can file a post judgment motion if you:

  • Are having trouble enforcing the final judgment because the other party is not complying with one or more of the terms of the judgment;
  • Are seeking a change in Child Support, because circumstances have changed for you, the other party, and/or your children;
  •  Are seeking a change in Spousal Support, because circumstances have changed for you and/or the other party; or
  • Are wanting a change in Custody/Visitation rights of your children, due to a change in circumstances for you, the other party, and/or your children.
  1. Arrears

Arrears is a legal term that refers to debts, or overdue payments. In your family law case it may refer to child or spousal support payments that you or your the other party has failed to make. If you are having trouble meeting your child or spousal support requirements, an attorney can help you in determining if the court order was properly calculated, and if you can ask for a reduction in the amount of support arrears that you owe

  1. Spousal Support

Spousal Support is the legal term that refers to a payment of support that one spouse provides to another. In your final divorce judgment, the judge may rule that you are to pay your ex-spouse a certain amount in spousal supportper month. This amount should be a reasonable payment that takes into account several facts, such as the standard of the living that you and your ex-spouse were accustomed to during the marriage, and the monthly income that both you and your ex-spouse earn.  If spousal support was ordered in your case, it may be helpful for you to consult with a Wallin & Klarich attorney to make sure that spousal support was calculated correctly.

  1. Custodial Parent

If you have children, part of the family law proceedings will be to determine who gets custody of your children. The custodial parent is the parent who has “primary” physical custody of the child or children.  In other words, this means that the child or children live with this parent more than 50% of the time.[1]

  1. Separate property

Separate property is property that only belongs to one spouse. This property will not be divided equally between both spouses during the divorce proceedings.[2] In a community property state, such as California, any property acquired during the marriage will be equitably divided during a divorce.[3]

Some examples of separate property would be:

  • Money earned or property acquired after you and your spouse have legally separated
  • Property inherited as a gift during marriage; or
  • Any property owned before the marriage.[4]
  1. Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is a contract that you and your spouse can sign and agree to before actually getting married. This contract can define each of your rights to property and other assets in the event that you and/or your spouse file for a divorce  A prenuptial agreement can possibly help in avoiding major complications and/or delay that many divorce cases experience.[5]

  1.  Joint Custody

Joint custody refers to a court order where custody of your children is awarded to both you and the other party. This means that both parents are the custodial parents. There are two types of Joint Custody: Joint Physical Custody and Joint Legal Custody. You and the other party can be awarded either joint physical custody or joint legal custody, or both.

Joint physical custody refers to the child spending approximately 50% of the time with each parent. Joint legal custody refers to each parent having equal say in  making important decisions for the child (such as for education, health, and extracurricular activities, etc.)  When making a determination on Child Custody, the court will always try to make a decision that the court feels is in the best interest of the child.[6]

  1.  Mediation

Mediation is a relatively easier path to finalizing a family law matter, by allowing you and the other party to work out an agreement outside of court with a neutral third-party, also called a “mediator”. If you and the other party are able to reach an agreement on all of the issues in your family law case, then the agreement can be submitted to the court for the judge’s final approval.  Once the agreement is approved by the judge, then it will be incorporated as the court’s final judgment in your case.

Call the Family Law Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are going through any family law matter, the process can be complicated, and the legal jargon can be very confusing. An experienced and skilled attorney will not only help you understand the case, and will carefully guide you through the entire process. The attorneys at Wallin &  Klarich have been carefully handling family law cases for over 30 years. Let our team help you reach the best outcome in your case.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, one of our attorneys is always available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation or visit www.wkfamilylaw.com. We will get through this together.

[1] http://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/words-and-terms-you-should-know-divorce-and-family-law.html#sectb

[2] Id.

[3] http://homeguides.sfgate.com/community-property-law-california-6860.html

[4] Id.

[5] http://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/words-and-terms-you-should-know-divorce-and-family-law.html#sectb

[6] Id.

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