Definitions and Terms

Not a lawyer? No problem.

Here are some common terms in the divorce process and their definitions.

Alimony: In Georgia, alimony is also called “maintenance” or “spousal support”. Alimony is payment of money by one spouse to the other during separation and after divorce or legal separation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): These are processes used to resolve legal disputes outside of the traditional litigation system. Some examples are Amicable Divorce, Mediation and Arbitration.

Amicable Divorce: A divorce process whereby the parties agree to resolve their matter between them, or with the assistance of attorneys, mediators and other professionals but agree to not have a Judge decide their case.

Arbitration: An Alternate Dispute Resolution whereby the parties (and typically their attorneys) present information, argument, evidence and even witnesses to an arbitrator to make the decision instead of a Judge. Arbitration can be binding in the same manner as a judicial ruling. Parties often find arbitration to take less time and expense than trying to get a hearing in front of the court.

Arrearage: Money that is due and unpaid for court-ordered child support or alimony.

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst: A trained individual who uses their knowledge of tax law, asset distribution and short- and long-term financial planning to advise parties about equitable divorce settlements. The best-case scenario for two people divorcing is that it’s amicable and both parties agree on the division of assets.

Child Support: Payments that one parent is ordered to pay to the other parent for the support of children.

Child Support Guidelines: A schedule of payments and guidelines for calculating child support created by the state that shows how much child support is to be paid. It is based upon the income levels of the parents, the needs of the children in certain categories and also reflects the payments made by parents in certain areas.

Custody: In Georgia, there are two forms of custody. Physical, which is where the children physically will be like a visitation schedule and Legal, which is who has the right to information about the children and to make decisions for or about them.

Decision Making: This is the right of a parent to have input into and make decisions about children in defined areas of the child’s life such as education, medical treatment, extracurricular activities and religious upbringing. The parent with  decision-making authority can make a decision if the parties are unable to agree.

Defendant: This is the person who did not file the paperwork seeking a divorce with the court.

Deposition: A deposition is a legal process where a person, under oath, answers questions pertaining to the legal matter. The questions can be asked by another party to the divorce or by an attorney, and it can take place outside a courtroom. A court reporter transcribes the questions and answers for the court record.

Discovery: Discovery is the formal exchange of information between people in a lawsuit. Discovery can be accomplished through interrogatories, depositions, and requests for production of documents.

Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA): This is a form developed by the State of Georgia whereby each party details their income, expenses, assets and debts and signs same under oath

Domestic Violence: Physical abuse or threats of abuse occurring between members of the same household or holding a familial relationship as defined by the State of Georgia.

Equitable Division: the standard for dividing assets and debts in Georgia. Equitable means fair, not equal.

Final Judgment and Decree: The document which is signed by a Judge which formally divorces the parties.

Guardian ad Litem: A family law Guardian ad Litem is a neutral person who is 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 involved in the family law case.

Interrogatories: Written questions served by one party on another party, which must be answered in writing as part of the Discovery process, answered under oath, and answered within 30 days.

Marital Property: Any asset or debt, gained or incurred by the parties during marriage.

Mediation: An alternate dispute resolution process of resolving disputes that involves using a trained, neutral person, called a mediator, who seeks to bring the parties together to a mutually satisfying agreement. A mediator can be an attorney, mental health professional or other trained professional.

Parenting Plan: This is a document which defines all of the visitation and custodial rights between the parties regarding their minor children.

Plaintiff/Petitioner: This is the person who first files the paperwork for a legal separation or divorce.

Premarital or Prenuptial Agreement: An agreement signed before marriage defining how property will be divided, what alimony will be paid, and sets forth how other rights and responsibilities will be handled should the marriage end in divorce.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): This is a court order needed to divide certain retirement accounts without penalty or tax impacts. Applies particularly to 401(k) accounts and pensions.

Separate Property: Property owned by a spouse before marriage, or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance.

Settlement Agreement: The document which memorializes all of the terms between the parties dividing property, debts and usually detailing child support and alimony obligations.

Uncontested Divorce: A divorce whereby the parties have agreed to all of their terms themselves or have no assets or debts to divide or minor children.

Visitation: The time that one parent has with a child or children who spend most of their time with the other parent.

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Nothing on this page is intended as legal advice for an individual.