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Divorce Glossary

A

Accounting: A person or entities detailed description of financial status or transactions.

 

Action: A law suit or proceeding in a court of law.

 

Admission of Service: At dissolution, a paper signed by a party admitting that he or she received the Petition for Dissolution

 

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR): A phrase to describe methods of resolving divorce disputes rather than going to court. Also sometimes referred to as "ADR" or "low conflict resolution".

 

Affidavit: A written statement made under oath, often as part of a divorce proceeding. In a divorce proceeding, Affidavits usually accompany motions and are used to avoid having to appear in court personally to testify.

 

Alimony: See Spousal maintenance. Allegations: The claims or charges against the other person which are made in a lawsuit.

 

Annulment: A legal decree that makes a marriage null and void. Under Minnesota law, a legal annulment (which is different that a religious annulment) is extremely difficult to obtain and usually requires that one of the parties lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage.

 

Answer: A written response to a petition issued by the Respondent, usually accompanied by a counter petition setting forth the basis for the petition and the relief that is sought by the Respondent.


Appeal: When one person disagree with a decision made by a trail judge and asks the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court to review that decision. This is a formal legal proceeding.


Appellant: The person who brings the appeal.


Arbitration: An alternative in which parties agree to have a neutral person make decision in matters relating to their case. The parties can stipulate to make the arbitrators decisions binding. Usually the decision cannot be appealed.


Arrearages: The difference between the amount of spousal maintenance or child support paid and the amount required by a court order.


Assignment: The transfer of a right or interest in property from one person to another.


Attorney of record: An attorney that is officially representing a party in a proceeding. An attorney of record is generally authorized to perform certain functions on behalf of a party, including receive services of papers.


Award: A decision by a court in a lawsuit to compensate a person in some fashion.


B

Balance Sheet: Summarized financial statement of a person(s) or entities assets, liabilities, and equity.


Brief: A written presentation of a party’s position.


C

Cause of Action: The legal theories or basis upon which a lawsuit is based.


Certified Divorce Financial Analyst: A professional that has passed the required tests to be an expert in the financial circumstances in a divorce.


Certified Public Accountant: A public accountant that has meet the requirements of state law to be certified by the state examining board.


Child (Minor Child): An individual under 18 years of age, an individual who is under 20 years of age and who is still attending high school, or a child who, by reason of physical or mental condition is incapable of self-support.


Child Representative: A specialized therapist that works with children with emotional and day to day needs of children going through divorce. They also help design a parenting plan around the needs of the child or children.


Child Support: The amount of money that one parent pays to the other parent to help pay for the everyday needs of the children, including housing, food, and clothing.


Child Support Guidelines: The amount of child support to be paid under normal circumstances when one parent has primary physical custody, according to a schedule established by the State.


Civil Court: A court that presides over non-criminal matters.


Claim: A charge by one person against another.


Coach: A specialized therapists that aids in helping a couple communicate in an effective manner in a collaborative divorce.


Cobra: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act - Federal LAW requiring employers to offer group health insurance to dependents on a self-paid basis due to loss of coverage from divorce or loss of employment.


Cohabitation: The act of living with someone, generally if sex is shared. In Minnesota cohabitation is not generally grounds for termination of spousal maintenance.


Collaborative Law: Collaborative law is a way of practicing law whereby the attorneys for both of the parties in a family dispute agree to assist them in resolving conflict using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and litigation. Early non-adversarial participation by the attorneys allows them to use attributes of good lawyering not greatly utilized in the usual adversarial proceedings. The attributes include the use of analysis and reasoning to solve problems, generation of options, and creation of a positive context for settlement.


Common Law Marriage: A marriage in which there has been no formal ceremony or marriage license. A judicially recognized marriage in some states but not allowed in Minnesota.


Community Property: See Martial Property.


Consensual Special Magistrate: As alternative in which the parties choose to have a third person decide their case in the same manner as if a judge decided it. The decisions are binding and can be appealed.


Contested Divorce: One party opposes the other because he or she disagrees with the other party on some of the issues of the divorce such as property, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, assumption of debts, etc.


Counter-Petition: A petition filed by the responding party, or respondent, stating the relief that they are seeking.


Court Services Evaluator: An individual who makes the child custody evaluation and who is appointed by a county court services agency.


Custody Evaluation: A third party investigates the circumstances surrounding the custody of one or more children for purposes of recommending a custodial arrangement for the children.


Counter-Petition: A petition filed by the responding party, or respondent, stating the relief that they are seeking.


Court Services Evaluator: An individual who makes the child custody evaluation and who in appointed by a county court services agency.


Custodial parent: When physical custody language is used, the parent who has physical custody of a child at any particular time.


Custody: The legal right and responsibility awarded by the Court for the care if the child. under Minnesota Law, there is recognition of legal custody and physical custody. In addition, a new statue allows the parties to avoid the use of custody language in favor of developing a parenting plan.


Contested Divorce: One party opposed the other because he or she disagrees with the other party on some of the issues of the divorce such as property, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, assumption of debts, etc.


D

Debt: Monies owed or borrowed from one party to another.

Default alternative: An alternative that occurs by default if another alternative is put in its place. In divorce proceedings, a court trail is the default alternative.


Defendant: The person who defends against a lawsuit brought against him or her by another. The defendant may also be called the Respondent.


Deposition: When a party or witness is asked questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter who prepares a transcript of the questions and the answers. A deposition is usually conducted in a lawyer’s office with a judge present. A court stenographer takes down everything that is said and later types it up in a transcript to be reviewed by the parties and their attorneys.


Discovery: The process by which one party obtains information from the other party through things such as Interrogatories, Request for the Production of documents and deposition


Dissolution of Marriage: The legal term used to describe a divorce. An action in which a party petitions the court to end the marital relationship.


Divorce: A legal judgment that serves the marriage of two people and restores them to the status of single persons. Also called a dissolution of marriage.


Divorce decree: The court order that grants the divorce and outlines the determination of the issues in the dissolution. Also referred to as a final decree or the Findings of Fact, Conclusion of law, Order to Judgement and Judgement and Decree.


E

Emancipation: An act by which a parent relinquishes their right to custody and are relieved of their duty to support the child. Emancipation can occur when a child marries, is inducted into military service, by court order, or based upon the best interests of the child when the child reaches the appropriate age. Barring emancipation, a child in Minnesota is a minor until he or she reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, whichever is later. However, if a child attains the age of 20 and is not graduated from high school they are no longer a minor under our law.


Employment Specialist: An individual that helps a client to define and pursue a career path.


Equitable Distribution: The division of property acquired during the marriage that may include marital debts.


Estate Planner: Individual or business that helps a client with a will, power of attorney, living will or health care directive.


Expenses: Amount of money owed or costs. Financial Neutral: A person with a financial background, usually a certified public accountant, who provides unbiased assistance to the parties and their attorneys for the purpose of reaching a resolution n disputed issues.


F

Financial Planner / Financial Advisor: Certified professional that aids an individual or couple on how to best invest their money for the best rate of return based on needs and risk level.


Formal Discovery: Information that is gathered through the use of formal methods such as submitting interrogatories, requests for the production of documents. or conducting depositions. This is in contrast to informal discovery in which the parties and/or their attorneys agree to voluntary exchange whatever information is requested by letter or in some other informal fashion.


G

Gross Income: Income before taxes and deductions.


Grounds: Legally sufficient reasons why a person is entitled to a divorce. Almost all state today, including Minnesota, are no fault states in which it is not necessary to state grounds for a divorce. Under Minnesota law the standard for a divorce id that there is an irretrievable breakdown if the marriage relationship.


Guardian ad Litem: A person assigned to protect the specific interests of the children.


H

Hearing: Any proceeding before a court where testimony is given or arguments are heard.


Hold-harmless: A phrase used to describe an agreement by which one person agrees to assume full liability for an obligation and protect another from any loss or expense based on that obligation.


I

Impasse: A point at which further progress does not seem possible.


Interrogatory: Written questions asked by one party to the opposing party. The opposing party must answer the questions under oath.


Irreconcilable Differences: A break down in marriage when partners cannot agree on certain fundamental issues.


J

Joint Legal Custody: A form of custody where both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions determining the child’s up-bringing including education, health care, and religious training. In Minnesota law there is a presumption in favor of joint legal custody.


Joint Petition for dissolution: A petition in which both parties are petitioning for dissolution at the same time rather than having one petitioner and one respondent.


Joint Physical Custody: A form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the actual physical custody of the child. The time spent living with each individual parent is structured between the parties. Joint physical custody does not require that there be an equal sharing of time.


Joint property: Property that is held or titled in the name if more than one person.


Judgement: A ruling or court order.

Judgment and Decree: The document that actually grants the divorce and which generally identifies the ruling or agreement on other issues such as custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division.

 

Jurisdiction: The power or authority of a court to rule in a particular case. A court must have jurisdiction over both the subject matter of the case, and the people involved in the dispute, in order to have the authority to hear a case and make binding decisions.


L

Legal Consultant: Someone who consults with a client and provides legal advice and legal services but is not the clients retained attorney.


Legal Custody: The right to determine the child’s upbringing including education, health care, and religious training.


Legal Separation: A court determination of rights and responsibilities of a husband and wife without dissolving the marriage.


Low conflict alternatives: Alternatives for dispute resolution that are designed to reduce conflict. Also referred to as non-adversarial alternatives.


Lump-sum alimony: Spousal support that is made in a single payment or is a fixed amount, but paid in specific installments.


M

Marital Property: All property acquired during the course of the marriage regardless of who owns it or who has title to it. Includes property such as houses, real estate, pensions, stocks, bonds, and household goods. marital property does not generally include property that was acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage.


Med/Arb: Short for "Mediation. Arbitration." A mixture of mediation and arbitration in which the parties begin mediation and agree that, if the issues are not resolved through mediation, the mediator can act as an arbitrator and make binding decisions.


Mediation: A process in which an impartial third party facilitates an agreement between two or more persons. Mediator: Impartial third party that facilitates mediation.


Marital Termination Agreement: Sometimes referred to as a stipulation. A complete agreement reached between the parties that spells out decisions made regarding all issues in an action for dissolution of marriage. these may include the issues of custody, child support, spousal maintenance, property, and debts.


Minor Child: See Child


Motion: A request that one party make for some type of action or decision to be made by the Court. Motion hearing: A hearing before a judge or referee in which the judge hears arguments but no testimony.


N

Net income: Income after taxes and payroll deductions


No-Fault Divorce: A type of divorce which may be granted without the necessity of showing that either spouse was guilty of some form on marital misconduct.


Non-adversarial alternative: General term used to describe alternatives to more traditional divorce process methods. They are designed to avoid court and other adversarial methods. Also referred to as low-conflict alternatives or alternate dispute resolution (ADR).


Non-custodial Parent: In a situation where one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent is deemed to be the non-custodial parent, since that parent does not have the children half of the time.


Non-marital property: Term used to describe separate property in some states that provide for the equitable distribution of property. Generally, non-marital property consists of property acquired prior to a marriage and property acquired by individual gift or inheritance either before or during a marriage.


O

Order: A courts official ruling on some matter before it. Generally court order will be in writing and signed by the judge.


Order for Protection: An order issued in a domestic abuse action where one party is ordered to refrain from contact with another party.


P

Paralegal: An assistant to an attorney.


Parental Consultant: A child psychologist who works with the parties as a consultant in an attempt to mediate issues of a case involving children. Where necessary, they may make binding decisions relating to parenting issues.


Parenting Plan: Written plan that addresses custody, visitation, financial support, tax exemptions, health and dental insurance and major decisions such as education, healthcare, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities.


Parenting Time Expeditor: A neutral person who is asked to interpret, clarify and address that are not covered by a court order or to enforce an existing parenting plan agreement and order. A parenting plan expeditor can be used to resolve a single dispute or can sat working with the parents over a period of time.


Party: A person directly involved in a lawsuit; either a plaintiff/petitioner or a defendant/respondent.


Pensions: Income paid to an individual or dependents for past employment services.


Perjury: The act of lying under oath.


Petition: The title given to the first document filed in an action for divorce. The petition sets out the facts of the case and the allegations against the other spouse and requests that the court grant the divorce or dissolution. It also states, in very general term, what the petitioner is requesting in relief from the court.


Petitioner: The person who files a divorce petition in court and initiates the divorce action. In some cases, both parties can choose to become Co-petitioners.


Physical Custody: The determination of where the child will spend most of his or her time. Also said to have the care, custody, and control of the daily activities of the child. Physical custody considers the routine daily care and control, and residence of the child.


Plaintiff: The person who initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court. The plaintiff is also called the Petitioner.


Pleading: Any formal written document filed with a court which requests action by the court. includes complaints, petitions, answers to the complaint, responses to a petition, motion, etc.


Post dissolution proceedings: Term used to describe differences that arise between two divorced parties after the marriage is dissolved.


Prenuptial Agreement: Contract between individuals before marriage outlining property division and spousal support in the event of a divorce.


Pretrial Conference: A pretrial conference is a meeting, usually in a courthouse setting, in which the parties and their attorneys meet for the purpose of trying to obtain a settlement. The conference is normally moderated by a judge or referee who is handling the matter. If the case cannot be settled and the matter gets set for trial, a pretrial order is issued.


Primary Caretaker: The parent who provides the majority of the day-to-day care for a minor child.

Private Judge: General term for any neutral party privately hired to render certain judgements at the request of both parties. Also see: Arbitrator.


Pro Se: A party which is representing himself or herself in the proceedings.

Q

QDRO: Qualified Domestic Relations Order. A separate order often used to divide a pension or a retirement plan owned by a spouse.

R

Referee: A judicial officer who presides in a manner if a judge, over a specific area such as family law. Decisions by the referee are subject to possible review by the judge.

Request for the Production of Documents: A written request issued from one party to the other, asking that certain documents be produced to allow them to obtain information necessary for resolving divorce issues.

Residence: The place where a party has established a permanent home from which the party has no present intention of moving.

Response: The formal document filed by a respondent in answer to the allegations in a petition. This is also called an answer.

Retained Attorney: An attorney who has entered into a retainer agreement with the client and has therefore become the client’s attorney of record.

Retainer: A payment made to an attorney to secure his or her services. The retainer is placed in a trust account and, as the attorney works, the charges are deducted from the retainer until the money is used up. After the money is used up the attorney would usually bill on a weekly or monthly basis, or would ask for a new retainer.

Retainer Agreement: A contract signed by an attorney and a client, setting forth the billing arrangements to be instituted between the lawyer and the client.

S

Service of Process: The actual act of presenting the defendant or respondent in a lawsuit with a summons notifying him or her of the lawsuit. Also generally includes providing the defendant or respondent with a copy of the actual compliant or petition in the lawsuit. The service of process is done either personally or through the mail.

Settlement: An agreement that resolves certain disputed issues.

Settlement Agreement:The written version of a settlement that resolves certain issues. It is generally a valid contract.

Settlement Conference: Another name for a pre-hearing conference where the parties get together and attempt a settlement of all issues in their case.

Sole Custody: Also referred to as primary custody. When one parent has the primary decision-making authority or has the children with them during most of the time. Contrasted with joint custody.

Spousal Maintenance: Payment of support for one spouse provided by the other spouse from the future income or earnings of the paying spouse. in Minnesota alimony is called "spousal maintenance" rather than "alimony". Spousal maintenance payments usually terminate upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the person receiving spousal maintenance. Payments received are usually taxable to the spouse who receives the maintenance, and deductible by the spouse who pays.

Stipulation: See Marital Termination Agreement.

Subpoena: A document which is served upon (delivered to) a person who is not directly involved in a lawsuit, requesting that he or she appear in court to give testimony.

Summary Dissolution: An action for a dissolution of marriage in which matters can be simplified through a summary process allowed by Minnesota Statute.

Summons: A document which is served upon (delivered to) a person who is named as a defendant or respondent in a lawsuit. The summons notifies the person that the lawsuit has been filed against him or her and tells them that they have a certain time limit in which to file an answer or response in reply. The summons accompanies the Petition and tells the other party the following crucial facts: 1.) They have 30 days to submit an Answer to the Petition. 2.) That neither party may harass the other party during the divorce proceedings. 3.) That neither party may change insurance coverage during the divorce proceedings. 4.) That neither party may sell assets while the divorce is pending, (with certain noted exceptions). 5.) That both parties are encouraged to pursue mediation.

T

Temporary Agreement: An agreement on how to handle temporary issues until a marriage dissolution if finalized.

Temporary Order: An order by the court, which is only intended to last until the divorce is finalized.

Therapist: Mental health professional trained to treat emotional, personality, and relationship problems.

Transcript: The written presentation of testimony given at a trail or at a deposition.

U

Uncontested Divorce: A divorce proceeding in which there is no dispute as to any of the legal issues involved. The lack of dispute may be because the other spouse is missing, refuses to participate in the proceeding, or agrees with the other spouse on all issues.

V

Visitation: The time that the non-custodial parent spends with the child when one parent is said to have primary or sole physical custody. In situations where custody language is not used, such as a parenting plan, different terms are used to describe access to the child.

Visitation Expeditor: See parenting Time Expeditor.

W

Waiver: A written document that relinquishes a person’s rights.

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