Important Divorce Terms Defined

Divorce and separation concept. Two golden wedding rings. Dictionary definition.

When a couple decides to file for a divorce, they will encounter terms they may not understand. Legally ending a marriage means navigating technical legal jargon that may not appear in everyday life. Law Offices of William L. Geary understands how difficult it can be to grasp these terms and is here to help explain them. Keep reading to learn the definitions of important family law and divorce terminology.


Divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage. This can be done through a divorce decree signed by a judge or a divorce settlement that both parties agree upon and sign.

Dissolution of Marriage

In Ohio, a couple may opt for a dissolution of marriage. However, it requires that both parties agree on all issues regarding the separation and termination of the marriage.

Legal Separation

Legal separation comes into play when a married couple decides to live apart temporarily but remain married. However, “separation” is not enough to create “legal separation” and someone would have to file a Complaint for a true “legal separation” to be granted. Also, in a “legal separation” all assets and debts and child-related matters, as well as spousal support matters, are decided or agreed upon and the effect is just like having a divorce but the parties are still technically “married” and thus can still be covered on each other’s health insurance, etc. This arrangement may benefit couples who want to try living apart before getting divorced or those who have religious objections to divorce.

Contested Divorce

Contested divorces occur when the parties cannot agree on one or more issues, such as child custody, division of property, or alimony. When going through a contested divorce, the couple may attend a trial and let a judge decide these issues.

Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested divorces occur when a couple can agree on all issues without going to trial or when one of the parties has been served with a Complaint for divorce and has refused to respond or answer the Complaint. This type of divorce is usually quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce.


Custody refers to the legal right of a parent to make decisions about their child's upbringing. These decisions can include education, religion, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Parental rights can be joint or shared, which means that both parents share these decision-making responsibilities (pursuant to a plan or order laying out their rights and responsibilities), or parental rights can be “sole,” which means that only one parent has the legal right to make these decisions.


Visitation is the time that a non-custodial parent (or a third party) spends with their child. This time is typically scheduled in advance, or ordered by the court per a decision or agreement, and may be supervised or unsupervised. For parents, the courts prefer the phrase “parenting time” over the word “visitation.”

Child Support

Child support is money that the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent in order to help with the financial costs of raising a child. Parents typically make child support payments until the child is 18 years old but may be extended if the child has special needs or up to age 19 if the child is enrolled full-time in an accredited high school program.


Alimony refers to the payments one spouse makes to the other after a divorce. Alimony payments are typically made until the receiving spouse remarries or can support themselves financially. However, there are different types of alimony depending on the couple's circumstances. “Alimony” is a term still used by the IRS but courts prefer the phrase “Spousal Support.”

Property Division

Property division is the process of dividing up the couple's assets and debts after a divorce. This can be done through a divorce decree or divorce settlement agreement.


Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps the couple to reach agreements on issues related to their divorce. Mediation can be used for both contested and uncontested divorce and can often help keep a couple out of court.

Pre or Postnuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement, also called a premarital agreement, is a contract created before a couple gets legally married. This type of agreement is often utilized to protect each spouse's assets in the event of a divorce. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement but is created after the couple has already married. Ohio is considering permitting postnuptial agreements but, in the past has not permitted them to be honored.

Attorneys That Can Provide The Necessary Explanations

If you are going through a divorce, it is essential to have an experienced attorney on your side who can help explain unfamiliar terms to you and guide you through the complex legal process. Law Offices of William L. Geary has knowledgeable divorce attorneys who are ready to answer your questions and help you with your case.

Do you have questions about the divorce process or feel confused about legal jargon? You can contact Law Offices of William L. Geary today at (614) 289-1227 to speak with our attorneys.

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