Family Court Glossary

  • Alimony: Monetary support. May be required of either spouse.
  • Answer: A response from your spouse to your petition for divorce.
  • Appeal: A request to a higher court to review a court decision.
  • Case Law:  Based on previous court decisions rather than statutory laws which are enacted by the Legislature.
  • Custody: As applied to property, not ownership, but a "keeping, guarding, care, watch, inspection, preservation, or security of a thing," which carries with it the idea of the thing being within the immediate personal care and control of the person to whose `custody' it is subjected. As applied to persons, it is such restraint and physical control over persons as to insure their presence at any hearing, or the actual imprisonment resulting from a criminal conviction. Florida no longer refers to parents as having custody of children but rather sharing time with them.
  • Divorce Order: A legal document stating that your divorce is final. May include details about custody, support, visitation schedules, and division of property and bills.
  • Enforce: To give force or effect to a law etc; to compel obedience to.
  • Father: This can refer to a biological father, a legal father (i.e. who is married to the mother) or a putative father (one who claims to be a child's father.)
  • Final Hearing: The last stage of proceedings relating to the determination of a suit upon its merits, as distinguished from those of preliminary questions.
  • Notarized: To certify (the validity of a signature on a document, for example) by a notary public. Any document requiring notarization must be signed in the presence of a notary public.
  • Notary: A person licensed by the state to certify documents.
  • Paternity: The state or condition of being a father, esp. a biological one.
  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: A legal document requesting that the marriage be siolved.
  • Pro Se: a Latin term which means you are representing yourself.
  • Rules of Procedure: Such rules regulate practice and procedure before the various courts; e.g. Rules of Civil, Criminal, or Appellate Procedure; Rules of evidence.
  • Service of Process: The process for notifying your spouse that you are seeking a divorce.
  • Statutes: A law enacted by the state legislature.

Legal Terms On Forms

  • Alimony: After making an equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, the court may grant alimony (monetary support) to either spouse. The alimony may be rehabilitative (temporary payments to allow for education, retraining, etc.) or permanent in nature. The court may order periodic payment, payments in lump sum, or both. In determining a proper award of alimony, the court considers all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

       a. Standard of living established during the marriage.

       b. Duration of the marriage.

       c. Age and physical and emotional condition of each party.

       d. Financial resources of each party and the nonmarital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

       e. When applicable, the time necessary for either party to get sufficient education or training to find an appropriate job.

       f. The contribution of either spouse to the marriage, including but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, or career building.

      g. All sources of income available to either party.

      h. Any other factor needed to be considered.

  • Child Support:  Florida law establishes guidelines for the court to use in determining child support payments. A table of minimum amounts is provided for parents whose combined net annual income is $120,000 or less. If the parent's combined income is more, a formula is applied to calculate support. See Appendix 3 and §61.30, Florida Statutes, for a definition of net annual income and further information.
  • Equitable Distribution: The court can distribute all assets and obligations equally between the spouses. The court begins with an equitable distribution, but may justify an unequal division based on all relevant facts, including:

       a. Contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including care and education of the child(ren) and services as a homemaker.

       b. Economic circumstances of both spouses.

       c. Duration of the marriage.

       d. Any interruptions of personal careers or educational opportunities, by either spouse.

       e. Desirability of keeping any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional business, intact and free from claim or interference from the other spouse.

       f. Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or improvement of or the incurring of liabilities to both the marital and nonmarital assets.

      g. Desirability of maintaining the marital home as a residence for a minor child or a party, if it is in the best interest of the child or party and financially feasible.

      h. Any intentional waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after filing the petition for dissolution or within 2 years before filing.

      i. Any other factor necessary to do justice between the parties.

  • Marital Asset: Everything that a husband and wife acquire during the marriage, and includes, in most cases, the following:

       a. Money that you now have which either of you earned during the time you were living together as husband and wife.

       b. Anything either of you bought with money earned during that period.

       c. Vested and non-vested benefits, rights, and funds earned during the marriage in a retirement pension, profit sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and/or insurance plan and program.

       d. Enhancement in value and appreciation of nonmarital assets resulting either from the efforts of either spouse or from the contribution of marital monies or other forms of marital assets.

       e. Gifts from one spouse to the other during the marriage.

       f. All real property (house, land) held as tenancy by entireties (held as husband and wife), whether obtained before or during the marriage.

  • Marital Obligation: The debts that a husband and wife owe together, or that either one incurred during the marriage. In most cases this includes anything that you still owe or any debts either of you took on during the time you were living together as husband and wife. (For example, if you bought furniture on credit while you were married and living together, the unpaid balance is a part of your obligations.)
  • Nonmarital Asset/Separate Property: Everything that a husband or wife owns separately, and includes:

       a. Anything that you owned before you got married.

       b. Anything you earned or received after your separation.

       c. Anything that either of you received, as a gift or by inheritance, at any time.

  • Primary Residence: Where the child(ren) will live most of the time must be decided.  The law requires the court to give equal consideration to both parents in determining primary residence regardless of the age or sex of the children. If the parents cannot agree, the court will make this decision by determining the best interest of the child(ren), and considering and evaluating all of the following factors:

       a. Which parent is more likely to allow the child(ren) frequent and continuing contact with the other parent. 

       b. The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between the parents and the children.

       c. The parents' ability to provide the child(ren) with food, clothing, and medical care.

       d. The length of time the child(ren) has/have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining this environment.

       e. The permanence as a family unit of an existing or proposed parent's home. 

       f. The moral fitness of the parents.

       g. The mental and physical health of the parents.

       h. The home, school, and community records of the child(ren).

       i. The reasonable preference of a child, if the court feels the child has sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

        j. The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and make possible a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. 

       k. Any other factors considered to be relevant to your case.

  • Shared Parental Responsibility: Both parents have full parental rights and responsibilities for their child(ren) and the parents make major decisions affecting the welfare of the child(ren) jointly.
  • Sole Parental Responsibility: The responsibility for the minor child(ren) is given to one parent by the court, with or without rights of visitation to the other parent. Generally, the court will not order sole parental responsibility to one parent unless it finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental (harmful) to the child(ren).