Arons & Solomon | April 4, 2016 | Articles
Family Law Terms NJ
The World of Family Law Words
Action — A term often used to describe a lawsuit.
Affidavit — A statement in writing that contains facts, made under oath and signed by the person making the statement.
A.D.R. — One of a variety of settlement techniques used to successfully conclude a case without trial, short for Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Agreement — Also known as a stipulation. This is a transcribed or written resolution of disputed issues when the parties have resolved such issues in their case.
Alimony — A form of payment or support from one spouse to the other.
Allegation — A statement contained in a pleading or affidavit setting forth a fact that the person pleading is trying to prove.
Annulment — The legal ending of a marriage that is invalid, wherein the law views neither party as ever having been married.
Answer — A pleading in a divorce, separation or annulment that is served in response to the complaint for divorce and admits or denies the complaint’s allegations. It also may contain claims against the other party (Counterclaim).
Appeal — The method where a higher court reviews a judgment or order of a lower court, and the determination as to whether or not there was reversible error that should result in a change to a decision or review by the lower court.
Appearance — A party’s physical presence in a court of law. This can also be the name of a document filed in response to a Complaint when the Defendant does not dispute the divorce.
Change of Venue — A change of the place in the county within the state where the case will be litigated.
Child Support — Monetary support for a child.
Common law marriage — A relationship between a woman and a man, which is recognized in some states as a marriage despite there being no license or ceremony. New Jersey does not recognize common law marriage.
Community Property — Property that is obtained during a marriage as a result of the couple’s work. This is applied in community-property states. New Jersey is not a community property state.
Contempt of Court — The intentional failure to comply with a court order, judgment or decree by a party involved in the action, which can be punished in a variety of ways including fines and/or jail.
Court Order — A written document issued by a court which becomes effective when signed by a judge.
Cross-Examination — The questioning of a witness by the opposing party’s lawyer during a trial or at deposition, to test the truth of the testimony offered or to develop it further.
Custody — The legal responsibility awarded by a court for the care, rearing and physical possession of a child. There are many types of custody, including sole, joint and shared custody.
Default judgment — An order or judgment from a court without hearing the other side because they failed to appear or file the appropriate papers on time.
Defendant — The person who is sued for divorce (wife or husband).
Deposition — The testimony of a witness taken out of court, under oath, and in writing, which is used for gathering information before trial.
Direct Examination — The questioning in court of a witness by the lawyer who called them to the stand.
Disclosure, Discovery, Production of Papers — A variety of procedures used by lawyers to investigate the nature, scope and credibility of the opposing party’s claim(s) and to obtain information about them which often includes financial status.
Dissolution — The ending of a marriage; also known as divorce.
Emancipation — The moment where a child may be treated as an adult, resulting in a termination of the parents’ legal obligation to support that child.
Equitable Distribution of Property — A system of distributing property in relation to a divorce or dissolution proceeding, under the review of a number of common-law or statutory factors. New Jersey uses equitable distribution as its method of dividing a marital estate between divorcing spouses.
Evidence — Testimony, documents or other materials offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations.
Grounds — The reason employed under law for a divorce. New Jersey recognizes a variety of causes of action, the most common of which is irreconcilable differences.
Hearing — Any proceeding before a court for resolving disputed issues through presentation of testimony, offers of proof and argument, often called a trial.
Injunction — A court order preventing someone from committing a particular act that is likely to cause injury or property loss to another party.
Interrogatories — A series of written questions served on the opposing party to discover facts regarding the disputed issues in a matrimonial matter. The responses are produced under oath and served within a certain timeframe.
Joint Custody — The shared responsibility and right of both parents awarded by the court for possession, care and rearing of the children.
Joint Property — Property held in the name of more than one person.
Jurisdiction — The ability for a court to rule on issues related to the parties, children or their property.
Legal Separation — New Jersey does not require or utilize the concept of legal separation. In New Jersey, if spouses no longer reside together, they are considered to be legally separated.
Maintenance — Spousal support or alimony.
Marital property — Income and property acquired by spouses which is available to be equitably distributed, subject to certain limitations.
Marital settlement agreement — The settlement which is reduced to a writing that resolves the issues in a divorce or some of them. It may also be called a property settlement agreement.
Mediation — A third-party facilitated negotiation. Mediators typically have no decision-making authority.
Motion — A formal written request to a court for some type of relief, such as an injunction, support, attorney’s fees or otherwise.
No-Fault Divorce — A divorce that is granted without having to prove the other party’s marital misconduct.
Order — The court’s ruling on a motion, requiring to parties to do something or setting forth their responsibilities and rights. An order is written, signed by a judge and filed with the court.
Plaintiff — The first person of the parties to file a Complaint for Divorce.
Pleadings — The formal written application to the court for relief and the written response to it. Pleadings include complaints, answers, replies, motions, cross-motions and counterclaims.
Privilege — The right of a person to make statements to his or her spouse or lawyer, member of the clergy, psychiatrist, doctor or certain mental health professionals, which statements are not later admissible into evidence.
Pro Se — A person who is not represented by a lawyer; usually referred to as “self represented”.
Relief — Anything a party to a divorce proceeding asks the court to do. This can range from dismissing a complaint, dividing property, enforcing an order or decree, dissolving a marriage and more.
Reply — The pleading filed in answer to the allegations of a counterclaim or contained in a motion.
Respondent (Defendant) — The person who responds to the Complaint for Divorce. Request for Production of Documents — A written request to the other party seeking the production of papers. The response is due within a certain time period. This is one of the tools used in discovery.
Separate Property — Property that is not “marital” but rather belongs to one spouse (i.e., from inheritance). This is usually referred to as “exempt” property.
Settlement — The agreed resolution of disputed issues.
Stipulation — An agreement between the parties or their respective counsel.
Subpoena — A document served on a party or witness requiring appearance in court or at a deposition. Failure to comply with the subpoena could lead to punishment by the court.
Summons — A written notification that the legal action has begun, which requires a response within a certain amount of time.
Temporary Restraining Order — An order of the court prohibiting a party from doing something, such as harassment, beating the other spouse, selling money, taking money out of a bank account and other behavior.
Testimony — Statements made under oath by a witness in court or during a deposition.
Transcript — A typewritten record of testimony taken by a court reporter during a deposition or in court.
Trial — A formal court hearing to decide issues in dispute raised by the pleadings.
Uncontested Divorce — A divorce where the parties have reached an agreement on all issues.