Family law is a broad — albeit fairly self-explanatory — branch of the legal industry; it generally refers to legal scenarios centered on family relationships, from divorce and alimony proceedings to pre- and post-nuptial agreements. During my time practicing this specific type of law, I have experienced countless issues spanning a wide range of familial situations.

However, if you are just beginning to study family law, or if you have found yourself at the center of a family law issue for the first time, it important to bring yourself up to speed on its basic aspects — and initially, this can be difficult, given the branch’s long list of subcategories.

To help you hit the ground running, here are a few significant terms pertaining to family law.

Key Terms

  • AccessFollowing a custody verdict, access refers to the right for a non-custodial parent to visit and/or spend time with any affected children; it also grants the right for this parent to receive information regarding health, education, and welfare.
  • Alimony Also known as spousal support or maintenance, alimony refers to a recurring payment made by one spouse to another for support, following a legal separation or divorce. These payments may be imposed as permanent or temporary conditions.
  • EmancipationWithin the context of family law, emancipation refers to a legal process through which a minor is declared self-sufficient and worthy of adult responsibility (this includes any aspect of their personal welfare — such as the signing of medical documents and educational enrollments). In most states, this process cannot begin until the minor in question has reached the age of 18.
  • Exclusive PossessionExclusive possession is the right for only one legal party to use a residence or other similar asset (including matrimonial homes). This type of possession can be included as a condition in separation proceedings.