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Words that you may hear attorneys say in a divorce or custody case and what do they mean?

Many times you will hear your attorney say some words relevant to your court case and you have no idea what they mean.  I have put together a glossary of words and their definitions.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts made under oath and signed before a notary public. Affidavits are used primarily when there will not be a hearing in open court with live testimony. The attorney will prepare an affidavit to present relevant facts. Affidavits may be signed by the parties or in some cases by witnesses. The person signing the affidavit may be referred to as the “Affiant.”

Allegation: A statement that one party claims is true.

Alimony: Court-ordered spousal support payments from one party to another, often to enable the recipient spouse to become economically independent.

Answer: A written response to the petition for divorce. It serves to admit or deny the allegations in the petition and may also make claims against the opposing party. This is sometimes called a “Reconventional Demand.” An answer should be filed within 15 days of either (a) the petition being served by the sheriff or (b) the defendant’s waiver of service being filed with the court.

Appeal: The process by which a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court. In Louisiana family law cases, a person will first file an appeal with the Louisiana Court of Appeals. After that appeal is decided there may be a further appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Motion to modify: A party’s written request to the court to change a prior order regarding custody, child support, alimony or any other order that the court may change by law.

Motion to Relocate: A parent’s written request to the court seeking permission to relocate to another state with the children.

Child support: Financial support for a child paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.

Court order or Judgment: A court-issued document setting forth the judge’s orders. An order can be issued based upon the parties’ agreement or the judge’s decision. An order may require the parties to perform certain acts or set forth their rights and responsibilities. An order is put in writing, signed by the judge, and filed with the court.

Court order acceptable for processing (COAP): A type of court order that provides for payment of civil service retirement to a former spouse.

Petition: The first document filed with the clerk of the court in an action for divorce, separation, or paternity. The petition sets forth the facts on which the requested relief is based.

Contempt of court: The willful and intentional failure of a party to comply with a court order, judgment, or decree. Contempt may be punishable by a fine or jail.

Contested case: Any case in which the parties cannot reach an agreement. A contested case will result in a trial to have the judge decide disputed issues.

Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness by the opposing counsel during trial or at a deposition, in response to questions asked by the other lawyer.

Custody: The legal right and responsibility awarded by a court for the possession of, care of, and decision-making for a minor child.


I will post some additional terms and theirs definitions tomorrow.

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