Divorce Terminology - Speaking the Language Can Help You Understand the Process

As you prepare to file for divorce, you may feel like the judges, clerks and lawyers are speaking a foreign language. In a sense they are. By familiarizing yourself with the legal terminology, you can better understand the marriage dissolution process.

The Florida courts use the following terms throughout the divorce process:

  • Petition starts the divorce proceedings by naming the filer’s demands regarding child custody, child support, spousal support and the division of assets and debts.
  • Answer is filed by the other spouse in response to a petition and is guided by a statutory deadline.
  • Counter-petition entails demands filed, along with the answer, by the respondent against the original petitioner (filer).
  • Service of process is proof that the other party received notice, the petition or other correspondence in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • Discovery is the process of exchanging evidence with your spouse, which may include interrogatories, depositions, financial affidavits and subpoenas of physical documents.
  • Interrogatories consist of a series of written questions each party submits to the other to collect relevant information to be answered under oath.
  • Deposition involves answers to questions provided by a witness — such as your spouse — under oath that is recorded by a court reporter.
  • Financial affidavit lists incomes, debts, assets and expenses of each spouse on a sworn document.
  • Subpoenas are court orders that require a witness to appear, a party to submit a document or another action mandated by the judge.
  • Florida child support guidelines refer to the statute that explains the accurate calculation of child support payments.
  • Mediation is a process guided by a trained facilitator in order to negotiate a divorce settlement in lieu of trial.
  • Notice of hearing is required to be served whenever one spouse schedules a hearing.
  • Default judgment is a ruling in the abiding party’s favor, issued by a judge if one party fails to appear in court, answer the petition or otherwise assert her or his rights.
  • Uncontested final judgment includes all of the terms the spouses agreed upon in the settlement agreement.

If at any time you do not understand a ruling or term a Tampa Bay court official uses, ask your divorce lawyer for clarification. An experienced attorney recognizes that your participation and comprehension are vital to reaching the best results possible and supports you throughout the divorce process.

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