With more than 50 years of combined experience behind us, we at Plog & Stein, P.C. have had the chance to handle a wide range of family law cases, including divorce. Over the years, we have noticed that our clients often don't fully understand the legal terms associated with their matters. It is our goal to help our clients understand the legal process, and understanding common legal terms is a crucial step. We hope this page of common legal terms is useful to you!Become Familiar With These Common Family Law Terms
90-Day Waiting Period:
Period that must pass between filing for divorce or the service of divorce papers, whichever comes later, before a court can enter a decree dissolving the marriage.
Child and Family Investigator (CFI):
A neutral third person, mental health professional or attorney with specific training, appointed to a custody case or divorce with children. Investigates and makes recommendations as to parental responsibility and parenting time. Fees capped generally at $2000, barring extreme circumstance, as per 2011 Chief Justice Directive. See C.R.S. 14-10-116.5.
Child support paid by one, sometimes both, parents to a divorce or custody case for support of a child or children. Generally determined by statutory formula based largely on income. See C.R.S.14-10-115.
Child Support Worksheet A:
Worksheet setting forth monthly the child support amount. Shows financial factors inputted to arrive at monthly child support amount, based on statutory formula. "A" distinction relates to non-custodial parent having less than 93 overnights per year with children.
Child Support Worksheet B:
See Worksheet A. "B" distinction relates to non-custodial parenting having 93 or more overnights per year with children.
Contempt of Court:
Action filed when one party fails to comply with court orders. Remedial or punitive. Potential jail time. Click here for more info.
Divorce case in which all issues are not agreed to, thereby necessitating a hearing or litigation.
Person filing case with petitioner, as opposed to being a respondent.
C.R.C.P. 16.2(e)(2) Financial Disclosures:
Documentary proof of finances required to be exchanged by parties in divorce, custody, or child support cases. Essentially equates to documentary proof of information set forth in sworn financial statement.
See Parental Responsibility.
Final one or two-page document indicating parties are officially divorced.
Dependency and Neglect Case:
Case initiated by county department of Social Services. Generally based on parents neglecting or endangering children. Can lead to termination of parental rights.
Request made by one party to the other for either questions to be answered or documents to be provided. Not required. More extensive than normal financial disclosures.
Dissolution of Marriage:
The statutory term for a divorce in Colorado.
Family Support Registry:
State agency serving as a general holding tank into which support is paid in by the payer and is paid out to the recipient for child support and maintenance. Good source for keeping detailed payment history.
Statutory visitation afforded to grandparents of children who are the subject of a case, such as divorce, custody, or dependency and neglect. See C.R.S. 19-1-117.
Documentary mechanism by which child support or maintenance is garnished from the payer's pay check. If either party requests income assignment, support will be paid through such.
Initial Status Conference:
Initial meeting with the court, generally with Magistrate or court facilitator, required in all new divorce or custody cases. Generally, to take place within 40 days of case being filed, as per statute. Can be waived, if there are two attorneys on the case, via Stipulated Case Management Plan.
Lower-level judge with less statutory or jurisdictional functions than a judge.
Spousal support paid by one party to another in a divorce case to another. Also called alimony. Not applicable in a custody case.
Debt incurred during the course of the marriage. Generally incurred for marital purposes.
Property acquired during the course of the marriage. Also includes increase in value of separate property that occurs during the course of the marriage.
Meeting between parties and neutral third persons whose function is to help facilitate agreements. Most courts require mediation and have mediation services. Settlement talks are not admissible in court. Mediation can be with or without attorneys.
Change to current court orders related to issues over which court retains jurisdiction: Child support and maintenance governed by C.R.S. 14-10-122. Parenting time governed by C.R.S. 14-10-129. Parental responsibility (legal custody) governed by C.R.S. 14-10-131.
Parental Responsibilities Case:
Statutory term for what used to be called a "custody" case.
Statutory term (as of 1999) for what used to be called "custody." Relates to parenting time. Most often used in relation to the making of major decisions for the children, either "sole" or "joint."
Parental Responsibility Evaluator:
Neutral third person, similar to CFI. Serves same function, but more detailed investigation. Can include psychological testing. If one party seeks appointment of a PRE, it will be granted unless court believes it is solely for purpose of delaying proceedings. See C.R.S. 14-10-127.
The statutory term for visitation in Colorado.
Juvenile case in which paternity of child(ren) is an issue. Custody and child support determined once paternity is established. Parties can seek DNA testing. See C.R.S. 19-4-101.
Permanent Orders Hearing:
Final hearing in a divorce or custody case. Hearing at which final custody and property division are decided. Hearing at which decree should be issued. Generally heard by judge.
The initial document filed and served, along with the Summons, by the person initiating a divorce or custody case.
Person filing divorce or custody case.
Primary Residential Custodian:
Party with whom children reside the majority of the time. Also called "residential custodian."
Other party. Party served with petition.
Response to petition:
Responsive document filed responding to petition. Must be filed 20 days after being served if respondent is in-state or 30 days if respondent is out of state.
Amount of money initially paid to attorney to get started on a case. Similar to a deposit. Any portion not earned by attorney should be refunded. Rates vary in Denver, CO. Our firm will start most cases with a $1500 retainer.
Multi-page document setting forth settlement terms on all issues in a divorce case. Generally viewed as binding contract in terms of property or other issues over which court would not normally retain jurisdiction. See C.R.S. 14-10-112.
12% per annum, compounded monthly for child support arrears. 8% per annum for maintenance arrears and other.
Agreement as to any issue. Put into writing and submitted to court for adoption as order.
Supervised Parenting Time:
Parenting time supervised by a third person as per court order. Generally ordered in instances of substance abuse, mental illness, or domestic violence. Can be modified to unsupervised.
Specific order specifying amounts and payment terms for child Support and/or alimony.
Sworn Financial Statement:
Statutory form setting forth income, assets, debts, and expenses for a party in a divorce or custody case.
Temporary Orders Hearing:
Hearing to take place after Initial Status Conference in divorce or custody case. For purposes of establishing orders to govern while case is pending up to permanent orders or final resolution. Generally temporary child support, parenting time, maintenance, and property use. Generally heard by Magistrate.
Divorce case in which all issues are agreed to. If there are two attorneys on case, the parties may never have to set foot in court.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act:
Statutory section setting forth whether Colorado or another state has jurisdiction over a child to deal with parental responsibility issues. See C.R.S. 14-13-101.
If you have questions about the previously mentioned terms and their definitions, our legal team is here to help you better understand. Please give our office a call at your earliest convenience in order to become better informed!