Have you ever been in an unfamiliar situation that felt like everyone else knew what was going on but you? Were you too embarrassed to ask someone to explain what certain words or phrases meant? Many people can feel that way when it comes to law. At Kevin Hickey Law Partners, we want to make sure you understand everything that is happening in your case and the best place to start is understanding the language of family.

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

Affidavit:  A written statement that is signed under oath. Also known as declaration.

Agreement:  A verbal or written resolution of issues in dispute.

Answer:  The written response to a complaint, petition or motion.

Alimony:  A payment of financial support provided by one spouse to the other—also called spousal support or maintenance.

Alias Summons: Another summons, used when the original is not served on the defendant.

Annulment:  The legal proceeding in which a marriage is declared void, as though it never took place. This is only available under certain limited circumstances.

Appeal:  A legal action where the losing party requests that a higher court review the decision.

Best Interest of the Child:  The legal standard used to determine child custody, visitation and support.

Collusion:  This term has been used a lot lately in political news. It is an agreement between two or more persons that one of the parties brings false charges against the other. A couple may choose to do this in states that require more than “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a quick divorce. For instance, one of the spouses may agree to use adultery as grounds for divorce, knowing that adultery was not committed just to obtain the divorce faster.

Complainant:  The one who files the suit---also known as petitioner or plaintiff.

Community Property:  A method of dividing marital property between spouses based on an equal 50/50 distribution. Arkansas is not a community property state, but courts are often willing to split marital assets 50/50 unless the distribution is considered un-equitable.

Complaint:  The legal paper that starts a case. Also called bill of complaint or petition.

Condonation: The act of forgiving one’s spouse who has committed an act of wrongdoing that would constitute grounds for a divorce. It is often used as a defense in divorce cases. The defense shows proof of this if the spouse that was wronged continues to cohabit with the spouse that committed the wrongdoing after learning of it.

Contempt:  Failure to follow a court order.

Corroborative Witness: A person who testifies for you and backs up your story. This person can corroborate your grounds for divorce.

Custodial Parent:  The parent who has physical custody of the child(ren).

Default: After a party’s failure to answer a complaint, motion or petition. A plaintiff’s divorce can be granted via a default and give everything requested.

Defendant: The person the case is brought against.

Discovery: A way for getting information from the other side or other people. This can be in the form of written questions (interrogatories) and depositions (usually in person and recorded).

Dissolution: The legal end of a marriage.

Equitable Distribution: The method of dividing marital property between spouses based on equitable and fair distribution, not necessarily 50/50.

Filing:  Giving the court clerk your legal papers.

Fault-based Divorce: One spouse claims the other spouse’s marital misconduct caused the marriage to end. Must be proven in court.

Fault Grounds:  Marital misconduct giving one spouse a legal reason to sue for divorce.

Grounds for Divorce:  The legal basis for a divorce that must be proven before the court can grant a divorce.

Home State:  The state where the child(ren) of the marriage lived with a parent for at least six months before a child custody, support, or visitation action was filed in court.

Innocent Spouse Rules:  IRS rules that protect one spouse from the other spouse’s tax fraud or other tax-related mix conduct.

Irreconcilable Differences:  The legal grounds for no-fault divorces or the term

Irretrievable Breakdown: The legal grounds for no-fault divorces.

Judgement: A court’s decision.

Jurisdiction:  The authority of the court to hear a case.

Legal Custody: A parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s health, safety and welfare.

Legal Separation:  A court order allowing spouses to live separate and apart while remaining legally married.

Marital Property: All property acquired during the marriage.

Motion: A request (usually made in writing) to the court.

Non-custodial Parent:  The spouse who does not have physical custody of the spouses’ child(ren).

No-fault Divorce:  A divorce that does not require one spouse to prove any wrongdoing by the other spouse. Arkansas is a no-fault state.

Non-marital Property:  Property that belongs to only one spouse and will not be included in any division of property—also called separate property. This is property acquired before marriage, through a gift or inheritance.

Notice:  A formal legal process of informing one spouse about a legal action or proceeding involving the spouse.

Order:  A court’s ruling or decision on a certain matter or legal issue.

Pendente lite:  Temporary arrangements for dealing with certain divorce-related issues, such as custody, child support, child visitation, alimony, and use and possession of the family home. These orders will remain in place until the court issues a final order is declared.

Physical Custody:  Refers to where the child lives on a regular basis.

Pro Se/Proper Person: Representing yourself in court without an attorney.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QRDO):  A court order giving one spouse a share of the other spouse’s petition or retirement funds.

Residency Requirement: The amount of time a spouse must live within a state or county before that spouse may file a divorce action in that state or county.

Service: Providing a copy of the papers being filed to the other side via hand delivery or another court-approved method of delivery.

Subpoena:  A form issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and/or bring documents.

Temporary Support:  Payments made by one spouse to the other for financial support while the divorce action is pending.

Uncontested Divorce:  When the defendant agrees to the divorce and there are no issues for the court to decide about the children, money or property.

Venue:  The county where the case is heard.

Visitation:  The non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with the spouse’s child(ren).

Writ of Summons:  A form issued by the court directing a party to respond to a complaint, motion or petition.

These are words you will most likely hear when dealing with a family law case. Kevin Hickey Law Partners wants to make sure you understand from the beginning everything that is happening in your case. Call us today for a consultation.

Things are about to get better. Call us.

(479) 434-2414 Fort Smith • (479) 802-6560 NWA

In the River Valley:
502 Garrison Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72901
Phone: (479) 434-2414
Fax: (479) 434-2415

In Northwest Arkansas:
1750 S. Osage Springs Drive, Suite 210
Rogers, AR 72758
Phone: (479) 802-6560
Fax: (479) 802-6561

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