Divorce Terminology A-Z

Alimony – payment to one spouse from the other spouse after a divorce.

Alimony in gross – an amount one spouse pays to the other in a fixed amount, either over time or in a lump sum, to represent additional property settlement between the parties.

At fault divorce – Divorce which is filed alleging something other than incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, such as adultery, addiction to drugs or alcohol, imprisonment, crimes against nature, cruelty, abandonment, etc.

Bona fide resident – A person who has lived in Alabama for more than 6 months preceding the filing of the Complaint.

Child custody – the arrangement in which the court orders the parties to care for the minor children.  There are two types of custody: physical and legal.  Physical custody refers to who the children live with on a daily basis.  Legal custody refers to who makes decisions for the children such as school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, religion, etc.  There can be different arrangements for both types of custody, but the main are sole and joint.  Someone with sole physical or legal custody has the children for the majority of the time and makes the decisions with regard to the above-mentioned things.  Joint physical or legal allows for the children to live/stay with both parents and both parents share in the decision-making responsibilities.

Child support – Child support is an amount Ordered by the Court for the non-custodial parent to pay to the custodial parent in order to support the child(ren). Alabama utilizes the Rule 32 Guidelines of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration when calculating child support in every situation.  A deviation from this Guideline can be made by showing sufficient reason to the Court.

Contested divorce – A divorce in which some or all of the provisions, such as child custody, child support, property settlement, alimony, etc., are not agreed upon at the filing of the divorce.

Collaborative divorce –a process in which the parties in contemplation of divorce or after filing work with their lawyers and another family “mediator” to achieve the results they want rather than asking for a Judge to decide those issues.

Custody modification – when one party wants to change the existing custody agreement.  A custody modification must be filed with the Court in order for it to be legally binding.

Dependency – When a child is reported as abused, neglected, or otherwise without proper supervision and care, the Courts have the authority to remove the child from the custodian and place the child with relatives, foster parents, other interested parties, or the Department of Human Resources temporarily and permanently, if proven.

Equitable power of the court – The Court will try to award what is fair and equitable in a divorce.  This is not necessarily always equal.

Guardian ad litem – Person, usually a lawyer, who represents the interests of a child or an incapacitated person.  The Guardian ad litem represents the best interests of the child(ren) or incapacitated person.

Incompatibility of temperament or irretrievable breakdown – These are reasons to obtain a no-fault divorce.  Incompatibility of temperament is that the parties are so incompatible that they can no longer remain married.  Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is when there has been a breakdown in the marriage and any further attempts at reconciliation are futile.

Post-Judgment Modification – A Post-Judgment Modification can be brought in the Court with original jurisdiction of the Divorce.  A post-judgment modification can include a change in custody, visitation, child support, etc., where a material change in circumstances has occurred since the prior Order.

Post-Nuptial Agreements – A post-nuptial agreement is made after the parties have married.  It can be in contemplation of divorce, to set out the property assets in the event of a divorce, or a degree of separate maintenance.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements – A pre-nuptial agreement is entered into prior the marriage setting out the preservation of the parties’ estates.  It can address anything: alimony, inheritance, estates, marital assets, etc., as long as it isn’t against public policy.

Property Division – Typically, property brought into the marriage remains separate property in the event of a divorce.  However, some parties comingle their belongings after marriage making it marital property.  The Court will attempt to equitably divide all marital property.

Uncontested divorce – A divorce in which all provisions of the divorce have been agreed upon by the parties prior to filing the divorce.