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Whether you are in the middle of a divorce or merely thinking about one, you are certainly dealing with your share of uncertainty.

Legal matters shouldn't add to the confusion. But unless you are an attorney yourself, the professional jargon used by the lawyers involved in your case is bound to trip you up from time to time.

The below helps you decipher the legal language you'll encounter in your divorce. Legal terms vary widely from state to state and so does interpretation by the courts. Don't be shy. Always ask your lawyer to clarify any word or phrase you don't understand. Legal-ese is often rooted in Latin or long-standing precedents. In other words, the terms may not mean what you think they mean.

Here, a sampling of the legal language you should know:


This is the process in which attorneys "discover" or seek information from the other party. It can involve requests for documents and the answering of questions. It is time consuming and very expensive, since you're paying your attorney by the hour. But is an essential tool in ensuring that fair settlements are reached based on full knowledge of all the assets — such as investments, pensions, savings, property holdings — both parties have in their possession.

Equitable Distribution

This is the distribution of all the property and assets acquired during the marriage in a way that is fair to both parties. It involves the valuation and division of joint assets: including the house, pension funds, stock options, furniture and furnishings, cars and the like that were acquired during the marriage. It also involves the division of liabilities — credit card debt, mortgage and the like.

Imputation of Income

This is typically used in connection with child support and alimony calculations. If you are not working but you're able to work, or you are earning significantly less than you could, the court will impute, or assign, a dollar income to you based on your qualifications, your skills and your work experience. It doesn't matter whether or not you are actually earning that amount at the time.

Judgment of Divorce

This is the legal piece of paper that says you are divorced.


This is a request to the court to resolve issues you and your ex cannot agree on or to require the other party to do something.

Pendente Lite

This is a latin term that means "while the law case is pending" and is used to describe Court Orders and Motions for financial support during the divorce process. It is a mechanism that allows the maintenance of the financial status-quo before a settlement agreement is reached.


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a legal document that allows a pension fund administrator to divide pension benefits.

Settlement Agreement

The end result of the divorce process is typically two things: a Judgment of Divorce, the legal paper that says you are divorced. And a Settlement Agreement — also called a Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement. This specifies how you and your ex will divide your assets; what financial support should be paid; and — if you have children — the custody and parenting time you've agreed upon.


This is frequently used in the context of permanently relocating, or "removing," your children to another state or country after the divorce. Typically, you cannot remove your kids without court permission unless your ex gives his consent. This is true even if you want to move for new job; be closer to family; or get married again and relocate.


Click the following for more articles and resource videos on Getting A Divorce.

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  • Comment Link Pam Saturday, 05 March 2016 02:21 posted by Pam

    Under Maintenance section of the stipulation settlement what does the following mean:

    "It is not the intention of the parties, however, to limit in any way the maintenance and support for which either party hereafter may be liable or prevent either party from seeking maintenance or support from the other at any time in the future."