10 Divorce Terms Everyone Should Know

Whether you are considering a divorce or are just beginning the process, understanding the legal basics of divorce is key to the success of your case. Although each divorce is unique in its own right, there are universal divorce terms used in nearly every divorce throughout Pennsylvania.

If you are going through a divorce, make sure you are familiar with these key divorce terms.

1. Alimony: Also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, alimony is a payment one spouse makes to the other during or after a divorce. Alimony payments are intended to help support the lesser-earning spouse so that he or she may continue to experience the same standard of living that both spouses shared during the marriage. Although alimony payments don’t occur in every divorce, they are common.

2. Child Custody: When a couple has children together, their divorce will also include a child custody agreement, or parenting plan. Child custody ultimately determines who can make parenting decisions for the child, where the child will live, and so on. Parents may share custody through a joint custody arrangement or one parent may be awarded primary custody.

3. Child Support: It is a parent’s responsibility to provide for their child, whether those parents are together or not. When parents divorce, the court may order child support payments in order to ensure that both parents contribute to the financial wellbeing of the child. Child support payments are intended to pay for the child’s living arrangement, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, clothing, and other toys and necessities.

4. Legal Custody: Legal custody is one of the key aspects of a custody agreement. Child custody will be awarded on two different planes, one of which is legal. The parent with legal custody has the authority to make major parenting decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and so on. In a joint custody arrangement, parents will share legal custody, whereas parents who share joint custody likely share legal custody as well.

5. Legal Separation: For many couples, a legal separation is a great alternative option to divorce. Couples can seek a legal separation in lieu of a divorce if they are having marital troubles, but are not quite ready to sever all ties. A separation agreement can include solutions for property division, alimony payments, child support, custody, and other key divorce issues, so if separated couples do decide to divorce, the groundwork will already be in place.

6. Modification: Not all legal decisions are meant to last forever, especially in family law. Most family law agreements can be modified when circumstances call for it, especially where children are involved. You may petition the court for an alimony, child support, or child custody modification when either you or your ex-spouse experiences a substantial change in circumstances. A “substantial change” can refer to an employment change, increase or decrease in income, a major health issue, or any other type of significant shift.

7. Physical Custody: The parent with physical custody will have the most physical contact with their child. In other words, the child lives with the parent who has physical custody. However, in joint custody arrangements where the child lives with both parents, it is possible for parents to share physical custody of their child. In most cases, the parent who has physical custody will also have legal custody.

8. Prenuptial Agreement: Before the marriage even takes place, couples may have prepared for the possibility of divorce by creating a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement protects the assets and interests of both parties by outlining key legal rights in the event that the couple should divorce. For example, a prenup can protect certain assets from property division and may even contain the plans for a preselected parenting plan.

9. Property Division: In a divorce, all assets are considered either community property or separate property. Community property includes any assets that were acquired during the marriage or were owned by both spouses together. Separate property, on the other hand, includes only the assets that were privately owned by one spouse, not both. Through the property division process, these two different types of assets will be sorted, and all community property will be divvied up between the two spouses.

10. Visitation: In the event that one parent is awarded primary custody, or sole custody, the other parent will likely be granted visitation rights. If a parent has visitation rights, he or she will be able to see their child on a regular basis, either through planned visits granted by the primary parent, or by court-ordered and supervised visits. Visitation plans can vary and may include a few visits each year, or a few each week depending on the case at hand.

Going through a divorce can be extremely challenging, which is why you need sound legal advisement on your side. Our experienced attorneys can help you understand each of these divorce terms and explain how each applies in your particular case.

Contact Scaringi Law to discuss your upcoming divorce with our Pennsylvania family law attorneys.


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