Divorce Terms 2017-10-02T19:01:44+00:00

Below is an alphabetical list of legal terms commonly used in divorce in Connecticut:

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Also called ADR. Any method used to resolve disputes other than traditional trial proceedings. For example, mediation. ADR programs speed up the disposition of civil cases.


Annulment: A court order declaring that a marriage is invalid.


Appearance: The official court form filed with the court clerk which tells the court that you are representing yourself in a lawsuit or criminal case or that an attorney is representing you. All court notices and calendars will be mailed to the address listed on the form. When a defendant in a civil case files an appearance, the person is submitting to the court’s jurisdiction.


Arbitration: Submitting a case or dispute to designated parties for a decision, instead of using a judge.

Burden of Proof: A party’s duty to prove the truth of his or her claims in the lawsuit.

Case Management Date: This marks the end of the 90-day waiting period (i.e. the “Return Date”) and is used to set a date for the final divorce hearing.


Child Custody: A court order deciding where a child will live and how decisions about the child will be made. Custody may also be called parenting time.


Child Support: The amount of money that a court will order one or both parents to pay every month to help support their child.

Defendant: The person in the marriage who is served with divorce papers.


Deposition: Through a lawyer, one spouse can ask the other spouse questions, under oath, in front of a court reporter. Before conducting a deposition, you need permission from the court. To get permission, you must file a motion to take a deposition.


Discovery: The stage of a lawsuit where the parties exchange information. This is crucial in a divorce case when one spouse is unaware of the extent of marital assets and estate. Discovery is also useful to obtain documents and other evidence that is needed for settlement or trial.


Divorce or Dissolution: The legal process for ending a marriage.


Docket number: The ID number given to your divorce case by the clerk’s office.


Domicile: The permanent home of a person. A person may have several residences, but only one domicile.

Ex parte: An ex parte decision/hearing is one in which there is only one party present and the judge will make a decision regarding the information only presented by that one party.

Guardian ad Litem (GAL): A GAL is appointed when parents cannot agree on a parenting plan for their children. The GAL is typically appointed to investigate specific issues that are in dispute. The court will order how much money each parent is required to pay for the GAL, unless either party is indigent.

Interrogatories: During discovery, one party may submit interrogatories to the other party. These are written questions that are helpful in obtaining information. One party may ask up to 30 written questions.

Mediation: This is an alternative method to litigation for dissolving your marriage. This method works for couples that desire an amicable divorce and can cooperate with each other. Couples meet with a neutral, third party (i.e. the “mediator”) to discuss and work out the terms of their divorce. Unlike arbitration, mediation is a voluntary process which requires cooperation and compromise by each party, so a binding resolution can be made. Mediation is also unlike arbitration because the parties create their own agreement based on their own negotiations.


Motion: A request in writing to the court. The purpose of filing a motion is to obtain a court order from the judge that will provide a temporary solution to a problem. For example, a motion for temporary child support.

No Fault Divorce: This is a legal reason for getting divorce. It is the type of divorce where you do not need to prove that either spouse caused the marriage to end (as opposed to a fault divorce).

Plaintiff: The person who files for divorce.

Return Date: A divorce cannot be final until the 90-day waiting period has passed. The return date is when that 90-day waiting period begins. The plaintiff chooses the return date, which is always a Tuesday.


Rule to Show Cause: Summons compelling a person to appear in court on a specific date to answer to a request that certain orders be modified or vacated.

Service: Service is how the defendant-spouse receives a copy of the divorce complaint and summons (i.e. how the defendant-spouse is “served” with complaint and summons). In Connecticut, a state marshal must serve the divorce papers on your spouse.


Summons: A paper form that is delivered or “served” on the defendant-spouse. The information on the summons is the relevant divorce case information.

Visitation: A court order that decides where and when the parent who does not have custody may spend time with the children.