Divorce Mediation Terms

  1. Alimony:  Money a court requires one spouse to pay the other spouse for support before and, or after the divorce is finalized.
  2. Answer:  Filed by a defendant to respond to a complaint in a lawsuit.  An answer generally responds to each allegation in the complaint by denying or admitting it, or admitting in part and denying in part
  3. Appearance:  A coming into court by a party to a lawsuit, either in person or through an attorney, whether as plaintiff or defendant.  Notices from the court will be mailed to the address on the appearance form.  An appearance must be filed before anyone can file any legal documents in a divorce case
  4. Automatic Orders:  Court orders that take effect when the divorce process begins.  The plaintiff is subject to the Automatic Orders when the plaintiff signs the summons.  The defendant is subject to the Automatic Orders when the defendant has been served with the summons, complaint, and automatic orders.
  5. Case Management Agreement (CMA):  A court form (JD-MF 163) filed on or before the Case Management Agreement date.  It is used to tell the status of the case whether it will proceed as an uncontested divorce or whether parties need additional time because they have outstanding financial and or parenting issues.  If the case is uncontested they can chose an uncontested hearing date on this form.  
  6. Case Management Agreement Date:  Date when the Case Management Agreement must be filed.  This date falls after the ninety day waiting period, and the parties can usually get divorced on this date if they are ready.  The parties must report to court on their Case Management Agreement Date if they have not filed their Case Management Agreement.  If the Case Management Agreement indicates that the parties have Parenting Disputes, or if the Case Management Agreement is not completed properly, or otherwise not accepted by the court.  If unsure, contact the court’s Caseflow Coordinator to determine whether you have to come to court on the Case Management Agreement Date.
  7. Child Support:  Payment for child care costs.
  8. Child Support Guidelines:  Formula used by the court to calculate the amount of child support. 
  9. Complaint:  A legal document that is used to start a divorce, legal separation, or an annulment case. The complaint is filed by the plaintiff spouse.  It tells the court general information about the marriage, such as the date of the marriage, any children born of the marriage, the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, and what orders the court should enter as part of the divorce.
  10. Custody:  A court order that determines where the minor child/children will live and how decisions about the child/children will be made.  The court can order sole-custody or joint custody.
  11. Defendant:  The person who was served with the divorce papers.  
  12. Divorce/Dissolution: The legal end of a marriage or civil union ordered by the court.
  13. Divorce Decree:  The decree states that the marriage is dissolved, the date it was dissolved, and any orders that were entered as part of the divorce.  If you prepared a separation agreement the court incorporates the agreement into the decree.  If a judge prepared a memorandum of decision, then that is incorporated into the decree.
  14. Docket Number:  A number assigned by the Superior Court Clerk’s office where the divorce was filed.  Every case that is filed is assigned a docket number.  It is the number that is used to identify the case, and should be listed on all future filings in the divorce.
  15. Educational Support Orders:  Orders entered at the time of dissolution relating to the payment of college tuition and expenses for the party’s children.
  16. Filing:  Giving your legal documents to the court clerk’s office.
  17. Financial Affidavit:  A statement of income, expenses, property (assets) and debts (liabilities) signed under oath.  
  18. Irretrievable Break Down (“Broken Down Irretrievably”):  The most common reason for granting a divorce.  It means there is no hope of the couple getting back together.
  19. Parenting Plan:  An agreement outlining legal custody, physical custody, and visitation (parental access) regarding the minor child/children.
  20. Plaintiff:  The spouse who filed for the divorce by service of a Summons, Complaint, and Notice of Automatic Orders on the defendant.
  21. Pro Se:  Latin term meaning for “oneself" or "on one's own behalf”.  It is synonymous with “self-presented”.  A pro se or self-represented party does not have an attorney representing them and they are handling their legal matter on their own.
  22. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO):  An order entered as part of a divorce that grants one spouse a right to a portion of the retirement benefits the former spouse has earned through the former spouse’s participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
  23. Return Date:  A date that is assigned to all cases, used by the court to determine deadlines for service of the summons and complaint.   It is not a court date and the parties do not appear in court on that date.  
  24. Self-represented:  A self-represented party is handling their legal matter on their own and does not have an attorney representing them.
  25. Separation Agreement:  Legal document filed with the court at the uncontested divorce hearing.  It is incorporated into the decree when the court dissolves the marriage.
  26. Service:  The legal method for having one party notified that a law suit is filed against them, or that some court action is being taken or has been taken.  Service made by a state marshal, who delivers the paperwork to the party being served.
  27. Uncontested Divorce:  A divorce where both parties agree on everything and noting is disputed.