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Common Divorce Law Terms Defined

 

Properly understanding and becoming knowledgeable in anything takes time. Research, studying and fully immersing oneself into something is the only way to truly pick up all the relevant information needed to know enough on anything. Divorce is no different. Attorneys who specialize in family law have studied for years to become as well informed on the subject as they are. Filing for divorce can be an emotionally trying event and process in general. However, going into it, knowing some of the basics is a much better way to enter, than going in and not knowing anything about anything. There are terms, laws, details and specific stipulations that are unique to each individual state. Some courts rule differently on the same issues due to this. Knowing some of the lingo and the processes for some of the most common occurrences in Family Law is a good way to get filled in and begin to understand just how divorce works. So, here are a few terms explained and dissected to help you along the way.

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
This is a pleading document, filed with the court that initiates the divorce process. The person filing the Petition is called the Petitioner and they are the ones who are asking the court to dissolve their marriage or to legally sign off on the divorce requested.This petition must be filed to get the divorce process started. Without this form, no filing can begin, this is single-handedly the most important document in the process.

Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA)
This document, commonly known as the MSA , is the end goal of every divorce.  It is a contract entered into between the parties in question in the divorce filing.  It’s purpose is to draw specific guidelines between both parties as to how all of the community and separate assets and debts will be divided amongst them. It also addresses alimony if this is necessary, this varies on a case to case basis. The Marital Settlement Agreement is usually adopted as an order of the court by entry of the Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, which means that it can be enforced not only as a contract, but as a court order. In the event that the parties cannot agree on the terms of the MSA, the case will be set for trial by the courts. In cases such as this, assets and the like are divided up as the courts see fit, and sometimes both parties do not come away with property that they had hoped or expected to. This is another reason why the MSA is beneficial.

Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage
This document is filed at the end of the divorce process; this is essentially the closing of the book, whereas the petition for dissolution is the opening. It is an order entered by the court granting the Petitioner a divorce from the Respondent. The final decree generally describes each party’s rights and responsibilities after the divorce with respect to property, debts and custody of any children. It essentially maps out absolutely everything for both parties, wiping out any type of discrepancies, concerns or anything of that nature. The details of those rights and responsibilities are typically laid out in an MSA or Parenting Plan, which the Final Decree incorporates by reference and adopts as an order of the court.

These terms and definitions should help you along the way. Getting to know the law is far from an easy process, however, learning small pieces of information such as these can really help you as you go through the process. It’s your duty to yourself to fully understand just what is happening in the entire filing process. Legal representation will be there to help you along the way should you opt for it, but it will do nothing but bolster your side of the case if you know the lay of the land.

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