Legal Terminology

Law BooksADR Statement – Alternative Dispute Resolution Statement. A written statement to the court that you will try to resolve the issues in the divorce between you and your spouse before asking the Judge to make a decision. This document was previously required to be attached to the divorce petition.

Affidavit of Inability to Pay Court Costs – A sworn statement of your income, assets and expenses.

Alternate payee – A spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a member or retiree who is recognized by a domestic relations order as having a right to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable by a retirement system with respect to such mem- ber or retiree.

Amicus Attorney – An Attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child.

Arrearage – Money that was court ordered to be paid and is overdue and unpaid.

Attorney Ad Litem – An Attorney appointed by the court to represent the wishes of the child as he would for an adult client. The rules of confidentiality and undivided loyalty apply.

Binding Agreement – An agreement between the parties that is signed by both of them, and is often also filed with the court. It is enforceable as a contract and the Judge may decide to make the agreement enforceable as a court order.

Child Support – Money paid by a parent to help the other parent support the child.

Collaborative Law – A method of alternative dispute resolution where all parties agree to resolve their disagreements without going to court. Each person hires his or her own attorney and everyone works together in a series of meetings to reach an agreement.

Community Property – Property owned by either party during the marriage.

Community Debt – Debts that occurred during the marriage.

Conservatorship – A court order deciding where a child will live and the rights each parent will have to make decisions regarding the child. Also known as “custody.”

Court Clerk – The person who works for the Judge assigned to your case. He/she receives court papers and assigns hearing dates.

Court Reporter – Types and/or records a record of everything said during a court hearing. The court reporter will prepare a written record if requested for a fee.

Custodial Parent (Sole or Joint Managing Conservator) – The parent who has the legal right to determine the primary residence of the child.

Decree – Also known as Final Decree of Divorce. The legal document signed by the
Judge that grants the divorce and describes the specific terms of the divorce.

District Clerk – Maintains the official court records for the county. The district clerk’s office receives all court papers and keeps the divorce files.

Divorce – The legal end of the marriage relationship.

Docket Number – The number given to your case by the district clerk’s office that specifically identifies your case.

Domestic Relations Order – Any judgment, decree, or order, including approval of a property settlement agreement, which relates to the provision of child support, alimo- ny payments, or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a member or retiree, and is made pursuant to a domestic relations law, including a community property law of the State of Texas or of another state.

Dual Role Attorney – An Attorney appointed in a suit by a governmental entity to represent both the child’s wishes and the child’s best interest.

Employer’s Order to Withhold – A court order to deduct child support payments from someone’s employment wages. All child support court orders must include an Employer’s Order to Withhold.

Evidence – Proof given to the court.

Filing – Giving the district clerk your legal papers.

Guardian Ad Litem – A person appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child.

Insupportability – The most common reason given for a no-fault divorce.

Joint Managing Conservatorship – Also known as Joint Custody. A court order stat- ing both parents have equal rights and duties to make decisions regarding the child.

Judge – The person who hears and makes the final legal decision in your divorce.

Law Librarian – The person who maintains legal reference and research materials for public use.

Managing Conservator – The parent who has the legal right to determine the primary residence of the child. Also known as Custodial Parent, Primary Conservator or Primary Joint Managing Conservator.

Mediation – A process to help the parties reach an agreement. Mediator – A neutral person who helps the parties reach an agreement. Negotiations – An attempt to reach an agreement.

No Fault Divorce – The most common type of divorce, where no one needs to prove that the husband or wife caused the marriage to end.

Non-binding – A process where no specific result is forced on the parties. There is no penalty if the parties are unable to come to an agreement.

Non-custodial Parent – Also known as the Possessory Conservator. The parent that does not have the legal right to determine the primary residence of the child.

Obligor – The parent who is court ordered to pay child support.

Obligee – The parent who receives child support on behalf of the child.

Parties – The husband and wife, and anyone else who has filed a court appearance in the divorce.

Paternity – A court finding that a certain person is legally the father of the child.

Petition – A legal paper that starts your divorce case and tells the court and your spouse what you want.

Petitioner – The person who files for the divorce.

Possession Order – Also known as “visitation” or “access.” A court order stating the specific days and times a noncustodial parent may spend time with the child.

Possessory Conservator – Also known as the non-custodial parent. The parent who does not have the legal right to determine the primary residence of the child.

Primary Conservator – The parent who has the legal right to determine the primary residence of the child. Also known as Custodial Parent, Managing Conservator or Primary Joint Managing Conservator.

Process Server – A person approved by the court who gives official legal notice to another person by giving him/her an official copy of a court document.

Pro Se – Representing yourself without an attorney.

Prove Up – The process of finishing your divorce in front of the Judge at an uncon- tested court hearing. At the prove up, one or both of the parties recite the required information to the court. The Judge then has the discretion to approve the terms, grant the divorce and/or make any other orders the Judge believes are appropriate.

Psychological Evaluation – A court ordered evaluation of a person involved in the lawsuit. The evaluation is conducted by a licensed psychologist who will provide a written report to the court.

Psychiatric Evaluation – A court ordered evaluation of a person involved in the law- suit. The evaluation is conducted by a psychiatrist who will provide a written report to the court.

QDRO Qualified Domestic Relations Order – A domestic relations order which creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right or assigns to an alter- nate payee the right to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a member or retiree under a public retirement system, which directs the public retire- ment system to disburse benefits to the alternate payee.

Respondent – The spouse of the person who filed for divorce.

Retroactive Child Support – Child support that was not previously ordered, but should have been paid at a time after the child was born and the parties were separated.

Return – Also called a Sheriff ’s Return. An affidavit signed by a sheriff or official process server stating the date and time he provided legal notice to the other party, or the reason as to why he was unable to provide legal notice to the other party. The return is filed with the Court.

Separate Property – Property that a spouse owned prior to the marriage, or property that was given to the spouse as a gift or inheritance.

Service – The legal method for giving your spouse a copy of the divorce petition.

Settlement – An agreement reached between the parties.

Social Study – A court ordered investigation of the circumstances and home life of the parents and the child. The social study is usually conducted by a social worker.

Sole Managing Conservatorship – Also known as sole custody. A court order stat- ing one parent has more rights and duties regarding the child than the other parent.

Spousal Maintenance – Also called “spousal support” or “alimony.” Money a court requires one spouse to pay to the other spouse for support during and/or after the divorce is granted.

Standard Possession Order – A specific possession schedule designed by the Texas
Legislature and found to be in the best interest of the child in most circumstances.

Temporary Orders – Court orders during the pendency of a divorce. Temporary orders may address any issues that need to be dealt with while a divorce is pending, such as custody, visitation, child support, use of property and responsibility to pay debt.

Temporary Mutual Injunction – Also known as a Mutual Injunction. A common order contained in Temporary Orders in a divorce that prohibits the parties from destroying or transferring any community property, incurring further debts, and from any type of harassment to the other party or the child.

Temporary Restraining Order – Also known as a TRO. A common order at the beginning of a divorce that prohibits the other spouse from doing anything to trans- fer or destroy the property of the marriage or to cause harassment to the other spouse or the child.

Waiver of Service – A legal document, signed by the Respondent in the presence of a notary, that states he/she accepts legal notice of the Petition without an official process server or sheriff or constable giving it to him/her. The waiver of service may also have
other legal consequences depending on what is stated in the waiver.