Affidavit: A written statement in which the facts stated are sworn or affirmed to be true.
Alimony: An order by the court to have support paid from one spouse to another.
Answer: A written response by a respondent that states whether he or she admits or disagrees with the allegations in the divorce petition.
Annulment: Florida recognizes annulments; an annulment declares that you were never legally married. In other words, the marriage becomes void, and it’s as if the parties were never married because of something that existed at the time of marriage.
Burden of Proof: A party’s duty to prove the truth of his or her claims in the lawsuit.
Child Support: The amount of money that a court will order one or both parents to pay to help support their child.
Contested: Any or all issues upon which the parties are unable to agree and which must be resolved by the judge at a hearing or trial.
Counterclaim: In response to a petitioner-spouse’s divorce petition, the respondent-spouse may file a counterclaim if he or she wants to list different reasons for the divorce.
Default: A failure of a party to respond to the pleading of another party. This failure to respond may allow the court to decide the case without input from the party who did not appear or respond.
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 a 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.
Dissolution of Marriage: The legal process for ending a marriage; divorce.
Equitable Distribution: This is the term used for how the court assigns property in Florida. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal or 50/50. Rather, it means what is fair considering certain weighing factors.
Fault grounds: Florida does not have fault grounds for divorce. (See “no-fault grounds”).
Guardian ad Litem (GAL): A neutral person who may be appointed by the court to evaluate or investigate your child’s situation, and file a report with the court about what is in the best interests of your child. GALs do not work for either party.
Grounds for divorce: Legal reasons a court will allow you to get a divorce. Some states have “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. However, Florida only allows “no-fault” grounds for divorce.
Hearing: A legal proceeding before a judge regarding a motion (i.e. a request to the court by one party).
Interrogatories: During discovery, one party may submit interrogatories to the other party. These are written questions that are helpful in obtaining information.
Irretrievably Broken: In Florida, this is one of the no-fault grounds for divorce.
Jurisdiction: This is a legal concept that gives courts the power to hear a case. It is the geographic area over which legal authority extends.
Legal separation: Florida does not recognize legal separation. Nevertheless, legal separation is available in some states. It differs from a divorce because after a legal separation, you are still married.
Litigation: The court process for a contested divorce. It only takes one spouse to engage in litigation through filing a complaint for divorce, that in turn, forces the other spouse on the defensive side.
Marital Asset/Property: Generally, anything that you and/or your spouse acquired or received (by gift or purchase) during the marriage. For example, something you owned before your marriage may be nonmarital. An asset may only be determined to be marital by agreement of the parties or determination by the judge.
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, other than a petition.
No Fault Grounds: In Florida, there are two no-fault grounds for divorce: (1) the marriage is irretrievably broken or (2) the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the preceding three years.
Non-Marital Asset/Property: Generally, anything owned separately by you or your spouse. An asset may only be determined to be nonmarital by either agreement or determination of the judge.
Parenting Plan: A document created to govern the relationship between the parents relating to the decisions that must be made regarding the minor child. The parenting plan must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child and shall address the issues concerning the minor child. The issues concerning the minor child include, but are not limited to, education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.
Petitioner: The spouse who files for divorce is called the “Petitioner.”
Petition for Dissolution: This is the form that begins a divorce. It is a written request to the court for a divorce.
Respondent: The spouse that must respond to the petition for divorce is known as the “Respondent.”
Request for Admission: During discovery, one party may submit to the other party a written set of statements that the other party must either admit or deny.
Request for Production of Documents: This is an official request for documents that assists in the fact-finding process of discovery.
Service: Service is how the respondent-spouse receives a copy of the petition for dissolution and summons (i.e. the delivery of legal documents to a party). Service must be in compliance with Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516.
Summons: A paper form that is delivered or “served” on the respondent-spouse. The information on the summons is the relevant divorce case information.
Temporary Orders: Temporary orders may be filed with a complaint when one party needs a temporary resolution of issues while the divorce case is pending. For example, you may file a motion for temporary child support. These are not necessarily final orders, and may or may not continue after the divorce is final.
Uncontested: Any and all issues on which the parties are able to agree and which are part of a marital settlement agreement.