Divorce Glossary

A short divorce glossary to help you understand some of the common terms used in the divorce process.

divorce glossary dictionary definition

Here are some of the legal terms you should know during the divorce process.

Case Information Statement (CIS)
A multi-page financial document that must be completed by each party, describing the details of income, expenses, assets, and debts.

A sworn document describing facts of a particular issue, similar to an affidavit. A certification is filed with a Notice of Motion or in reply to a Notice of Motion brought by your spouse.

Procedure during which an attorney questions a witness or a party to the divorce under oath and the questions and answers are transcribed by a court reporter.

Exchange of information regarding all issues relevant to your divorce. The most frequently used forms of discovery are interrogatories and depositions.

Early Settlement Panel (ESP)
A conference at the Court House attended by you, your spouse, and both attorneys. The facts of your case are presented to a panel of family-law practitioners who volunteer their time to assist in the settlement of cases. These panelists consider the specific circumstances of your case and make a recommendation for settlement. While non-binding, this recommendation frequently helps the parties and their attorneys reach a settlement agreement.

Equitable Distribution
The statutory right to receive a fair distribution of assets acquired during the marriage.

Written questions used as part of discovery that are answered and sworn to by each party.

Joint Custody
There are two aspects to joint custody:

  1. Joint legal custody means that the parties share the rights and responsibilities for making decisions concerning the significant aspects of a child’s life, including educational, medical, and religious issues.
  2. Joint physical custody means that the child lives part of the time with each parent. The nature and extent of sharing of time may vary significantly.

It is not unusual for parents to have joint legal custody while one parent has sole or primary physical custody and the other has substantial time with a child.

Judgment of Divorce
A document that grants a divorce and reflects the CourtÕs decision following trial, resolving all issues such as alimony, support, custody, visitation, and equitable distribution.

If the parties settle out of court, the Judgment of Divorce includes all the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Notice of Motion
To obtain a court order for support, discovery, or other relief, either party may file a Notice of Motion with the Court. The Notice is supported by the certification of the party seeking the relief.

Most often, the Court permits attorneys to appear in court and make arguments on behalf of their clients on the return date of the motion. Clients may appear in court on motion days to observe the procedure but are rarely allowed to testify. Occasionally, the Court makes its decision solely by reading the papers submitted. After the decision is entered, one of the lawyers prepares an order that documents the judge’s ruling.

A document that reflects the Court’s decision after hearing a Motion or Order to Show Cause.

Order to Show Cause
When emergency relief is sought from the Court, a party may file an Order to Show Cause. For example, a party might file an Order to Show Cause when there is an imminent threat that funds will be dissipated or that a child will be taken out of the State.

If the parties cannot resolve their differences, the parties and their witnesses testify and present evidence in open court, subject to interrogation by the other spouse’s lawyer. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court renders a decision called a Judgment.

David M. Wildstein is a senior partner in Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, and Chair of the firm’s Family Law Department. He has exclusively practiced family law for over 25 years, and he has been a member of several New Jersey Supreme Court Committees that have shaped the rules and procedures for family law in this State. www.wilentz.com

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