Quick Glossary of Family Law Terms

ALIMONY

An award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. (Texas Family Code § 8.001). Also referred to as “Spousal Maintenance”.

AMICUS ATTORNEY

An attorney appointed by the court in a suit, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a child’s best interests rather than to provide legal services to the child. Texas Family Code § 107.

ANNULMENT

A court may grant an annulment of a marriage to a party to the marriage if the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner to enter into the marriage; and the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party since learning of the fraud or since being released from the duress or force. Texas Family Code § 6.107.

AGREED PARENTING PLAN

A written agreed parenting plan containing provisions for conservatorship and possession of the child and for modification of the parenting plan, including variations from the standard possession order.

BEST INTEREST OF CHILD – [Back to top]

The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY

Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. Courts presume property is community.

CPS

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. CPS investigates and prosecutes cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children, adults with disabilities, or people who are elderly (65 years or older).

DATING VIOLENCE

(See Family Violence) The “Dating Relationship” means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.

DISPOSABLE EARNINGS

“Disposable earnings” (§ 101.010.) means the part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amount required by law to be withheld, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical, hospitalization, and disability insurance coverage for the obligor and the obligor’s children.

FAMILY VIOLENCE

An act by a member of a family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm. The law excludes the reasonable discipline of a child and defines abuse as physical injury that results in substantial harm or genuine threat; sexual contact, intercourse, or conduct; or compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct.

J.M.C.

Joint Managing Conservator as defined by Section 153 of the Texas Family Code. This does not mean joint physical custody.

MEDIATION

A confidential settlement process where parties to a dispute meet with a neutral person, called a “mediator,” to try to resolve areas of conflict. The parties, their attorneys and the mediator discuss the goals of each party and the reality of each party’s position. If the parties reach a settlement, the mediator drafts a binding agreement that reflects the negotiated settlement.

MOVANT

A person who applies to or petitions a court or judge for a ruling in his or her favor.

NCP

Noncustodial parent.

OBLIGEE

Person required to pay child support or spousal support.

OBLIGOR

Person who receives child support or spousal support.

PETITIONER

The movant in a divorce or child custody case.

QDRO

The term Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is used to describe the order that divides some, but not all, retirement, profit-sharing, and other such qualified plans. See 26 U.S.C. § 414(p)(1)(A); 29 U.S.C. §1056(d)(3)(B)(i); Tex. Gov’t Code §804.001(4).

RESPONDENT

The non-movant or counter-petitioner in a divorce or custody case.

SAPCR

Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (called a SAPCR) can be filed by a parent or other authorized person to ask for a child custody, visitation, child support and medical support order. It can be used as a part of a divorce case or in connection with a case to establish paternity.

SEPARATE PROPERTY

Property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage; property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent; and/or the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.

S.P.O.

Standard Possession Order as that term is defined in Section 153 of the Texas Family Code.

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

The purpose of a suit of this type is to terminate the parent-child relationship between the child and the parents or the father whose rights have not been adjudicated. Generally, a termination decree divests the parent or alleged father and the child of all legal rights and duties with respect to each other, except that the child retains the right to inherit from and through the child’s divested parent unless the court provides otherwise. See Tex. Fam. Code §161.206(b).

UCCJEA

Child custody determinations of other states may be enforced under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which is contained in chapter 152 of the Family Code.

VOID MARRIAGE

If two or more marriages of a person to different spouses are alleged, the most recent marriage is presumed valid as against each marriage that precedes it until one who asserts the validity of a prior marriage proves the validity of the prior marriage. Tex. Fam. Code §1.102.

WITHHOLDING

Withholding means the document issued by the clerk of a court and delivered to an employer, directing that earnings be withheld for payment of spousal maintenance or child support.

 

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