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Definitions and Terms

Legal Separation

A legal separation is a binding agreement in the form of a court order that specifies the way the parting couple is going to share their assets, liabilities and other financial matters. A legal separation is a way to make a marriage separation formal without the finality of a divorce.


Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

A “contested” divorce is the most complicated of divorces, because it involves spouses that can’t come to an agreement on one or many issues of their divorce.

Typically, there are two kinds of divorces: 

The first is an “uncontested” divorce; this is where both spouses agree on all issues concerning the divorce, including but not limited to the division of marital property and debts, child custody, child support, and spousal support (“alimony”).  

The second - a “contested” divorce - is where the spouses cannot agree on their divorce issues, and they end up in court, asking a judge to make these decisions for them.

Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

In a family law context, “Legal Custody” is a type of child custody that grants a parent the right to make important, long-term decisions regarding their child or children.  This may include aspects of the child’s upbringing including:


  • Education

  • Medical and dental care

  • Religious upbringing

  • Financial decisions


Legal custody usually interacts with another concept called “physical custody”, which refers to issues such as the child’s residence.  In many cases, both parents can be awarded with a combination of different legal and physical custody rights.

Alimony vs. Spousal Support

Alimony and spousal support are one and the same. Both the words refer to the same thing. Alimony and spousal support is the payment given to a spouse as compensation to the spouse’s contribution to the home or for the development of the spouse’s career or given to make up for the financial problems of the other.

Child Support

Child support is money paid by one parent to the other for the purpose of providing financial support to a child or children. Most frequently, child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, but this is not always the case.

Community Property

Property acquired by the husband and wife, or either, during the marriage.

Separate Property

Property that is owned and controlled by a married person where a spouse has no rights concerning it.

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