The practice of family law is an extensive and diverse category with a plethora of terms uniquely associated with it. For many people, the first time they begin to hear these terms, it is during their divorce, which is emotional enough despite the new and unfamiliar processes happening.  As previously stated in the Basics of Family Law Pt. 1, through countless experiences with various familial situations during my years practicing family law, I have come to learn terms that many have either never heard or didn’t easily understand.


Here are a few (more) significant terms pertaining to family law.


Key Terms


  • Marital Property –  Generally marital property is considered to be all property acquired during the marriage despite ownership or whose name is on the title. While it seems simple enough, what is deemed to be marital property is a relatively broad category. For example, if you bought a property before the marriage, but then both parties lived in the home, it could be considered marital property. Similarly, if a spouse received an inheritance but deposited it in a joint account, it could be considered marital property.


  • Parenting Plan – Commonly referred to as a parenting agreement or settlement agreement, a parenting plan is a written agreement negotiated and finalized in detail by both parents or parties involved in a custody dispute. These plans can be decided informally by parents or through out-of-court processes.


  • Paternity – Paternity law concerns the legal recognition of a child’s biological father established through genetic testing. If a parent denies a child’s paternity, a paternity suit can be filed to determine the results, as well as to obtain child support or seek visitation rights.


  • Prenuptial Agreement – If a couple or individual in a relationship wants to protect their rights to their property and assets in case of a divorce, they can pursue a signed contract from their spouse before the marriage. A “prenup” is carefully looked at and considered by the courts and can be dismissed if the judge believes the agreement is unfair or fails to meet state requirements. Therefore it is important to request the review and advice of separate lawyers before finalizing and filing away.


  • Supervised Access –  Also known as supervised visitation, refers to the type of interactions a parent can have with their children. If a judge has reason to believe either parent poses a danger or hasn’t spent enough time with the child to build a relationship, the court may order a visitation agreement that requires the party of a third-party.