Abandonment: A parent’s or custodian’s act of leaving a child without adequate care, supervision, support or parental contact for an excessive period of time. Also, the desertion of one spouse by the other with the intent to terminate the marriage relationship.

Acceptance & Waiver: A document signed by the respondent spouse in a divorce proceedings agreeing to the terms of the divorce as set forth by the other spouse.

Affidavit in Support of Decree of Divorce: A document filed by the petitioning spouse, setting out the grounds for a divorce. In most cases this document takes the place of any court appearance and the divorce can be finalized without attending a hearing or appearing in front of the judge.

Alimony: Court-ordered allowance that one spouse pays to the other spouse for support while they are separated, in the process of getting divorced, or after they are divorced. Also called spousal support.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Processes such as mediation or arbitration which attempt to resolve disputes without going to court. These methods can be faster, less expensive, and more satisfying than litigation.

Annulment: A process that makes a marriage null and void as though it never existed.

Appeal: A review by a higher court of a lower court’s or agency’s final judgment or decree. In most cases an appeal is not a new trial, and no new evidence will be accepted.

Arbitration: A form of alternative dispute resolution where a third party (the arbitrator) reviews the evidence of a case and imposes a decision that is legally binding and enforceable.

Child abuse: Any form of cruelty to a child’s physical, moral or mental well-being.

Custody: The right to or responsibility for a child’s care and control, carrying with it the duty of providing food, shelter, medical care, education and discipline.
Physical custody means where the children live; legal custody means which parent has the right to make important decisions about the children.

Default Judgment: Judgment where the court grants the petitioning spouse a divorce or other petition exactly as requested because the respondent spouse did not submit an answer within the time allowed.

Deprivation of Custody: A process by which the court transfers legal custody of a person from parents or legal guardian to another person, agency, or institution on a temporary or permanent basis.

Decree of Divorce: the court order that terminates a marriage and sets out the terms of the divorce. The parties are not divorced until the judge signs the decree.

Divorce: the proceeding that ends a marriage and all legal relationships between a husband and wife, except those specified in the divorce decree.

Divorce Complaint: The document filed by the petitioning spouse which sets out the terms of the divorce as sought.

Financial Declaration: A declaration of each party’s income, assets, debts, and expenses. Most family law actions require a financial declaration.

Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law: A document that is filed with the court that sets out the facts regarding the parties’ marriage and the legal results of the proposed divorce. The court uses this information to make its decision regarding a divorce.

Foster Care: A form of substitute care, usually in a home licensed by a public agency, for children whose welfare requires removal from their homes.

Garnishment: A court order to take part of a person’s wages, before he gets them, and apply the amount taken to pay a debt owed to a creditor.

Guardianship: A responsibility granted to a person or institution to take care of and make decisions for another person.

In Loco Parentis: “In the place of the parent”; refers to actions of a custodian, guardian or other person acting in the parent’s place.

Jurisdiction: The legal authority of a court to hear a case or conduct other proceedings; power of the court over persons involved in a case and the subject matter of the case.

Mediation: A process that may help spouses talk about the issues in the divorce and come to an agreement. If spouses do not agree on their own, Utah law requires them to go through the mediation process before going to trial. This requirement may be waived, however, for good cause such as having had domestic violence in the relationship.

No Fault Divorce: A kind of divorce in which the parties need not cast blame on one another for the failure of the marriage.

Parent Time: A visitation schedule agreed upon by divorced or separated spouses (or mandated by the court) specifying time for the non-custodial parent to spend with the child(ren).

Parenting Plan: A plan outlining how divorced or separated parents will raise their children. A parenting plan is required for shared parenting (custody) arrangements and is permitted in other parenting arrangements.

Petitioner: The spouse requesting a divorce or starting the divorce case.

Respondent: The spouse who did not start the divorce case

Separate Maintenance: A legal arrangement that allows married couples to separate their affairs without obtaining a divorce. A separate maintenance order governs child custody, child support, parent time, alimony, and property and debt division, but the parties remain married.

Stipulate: A written agreement where the respondent spouse agrees to the terms of the divorce petition and divorce decree.

Summons: A notice to an individual that a legal action has been commenced against him or her.

Temporary Orders: Orders that establish child support, custody, and other arrangements during the period that a divorce is pending.

Temporary Separation: An optional step spouses may take before filing for divorce, especially if they are not sure they want to divorce, but they need court orders to establish temporary provisions concerning alimony, property and debt management and division, health care insurance, housing, child support, child custody and parent time.

Termination of Parental Rights: A judicial proceeding freeing a child from all custody and control by parents, so the child can be adopted by others.