Common Yet Unfamiliar Divorce Court Terms

Stepping into court for any reason can be a pretty confusing time for any person who has not dedicated their career to the law, legalese, and litigation. Divorce court is not an exception, and if you are currently going through a divorce, you should be aware that there is essentially an entire dictionary of terminology you may have never heard. To give you some insight on some of the things being said in court, review this list of some of the most common yet unfamiliar divorce court terms.

  1. Ab initio: This translates from Latin to "from the beginning." Why they don't just say "from the beginning" is unclear.
  2. Affidavit: A written testimony given when under oath that is then notarized by an official.
  3. Complaint: The paperwork that marks the legal beginning of a divorce, citing the reasons why the creator of the complaint wanted the marriage to end.
  4. Contempt: You hear this a lot in movies about courtrooms, being in contempt of court means intentionally ignoring or violating a court's order. This is illegal and can be punished by the law.
  5. Default: If a party does not respond to a complaint or other legal action, they have defaulted.
  6. Discovery: The process a lawyer uses to evaluate the other party's claims during your divorce. Discovery may also include actually uncovering new evidence in your case.
  7. Equitable: You will not often hear the word 'equal' in divorce court. Instead you'll hear 'equitable' which means fair, and not necessarily 50-50.
  8. Expert witness: A certified professional in a particular field called upon to give a testimony. In divorce, this could be a family counselor more often than not. (see voir dire)
  9. Guardian-ad-Litem: When someone cannot represent themselves in court due to legal boundaries, such as a young child, someone else will be appointed as their guardian-ad-litem and speak for them.
  10. Incompatibility: A basic grounds for divorce saying you cannot get along with one another anymore. This is sometimes cited as 'irreconcilable differences'.
  11. Motion: Asking that that the court creates an order of any sort.
  12. Nuptial: What is nuptial and why does it sound familiar? If something is nuptial, it just means it is marriage-related, as in a prenuptial agreement.
  13. Perjury: Lying to the court or an official after taking an oath to only tell the truth.
  14. Subpoena: An official document from the court that demands a person to show up to court, either as a witness or a supplier of further evidence.
  15. Voir dire: The opposition is given a chance to disqualify your expert witness, or otherwise show that their testimony should not be accepted as "expert."

The aforementioned fifteen words, phrases, and terms are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legalese used in divorce court proceedings. For an extended list, be sure to check out what has compiled here. For help with your divorce case, you can contact our Raleigh family law attorney from Hopper Law Firm by calling 800.705.8950. See what 29 years of legal experience can do for you during an initial case evaluation with our team.

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