Legal Terms

A written statement of fact, sworn to be the truth by the person signing the document, and signed in front of a notary public.  This is the first step a parent must take to voluntarily request mediation.

An obligation to provide financial support for the benefit of the child.  This is usually ordered by the court.

A finding the court makes after a hearing that one parent has intentionally violated the terms of the court order.

A lawsuit filed to legally dissolve (end) a marriage.

The final court order at the end of the divorce action that settles legal custody, physical placement and all financial issues.

Attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child in legal actions.  A GAL is appointed when there is a dispute on custody and placement or when the court has special concern for the welfare of the minor child.

A situation during mediation in which an agreement on an issue cannot be reached and all possible solutions to the issue have been thoroughly discussed.  A declaration of impasse can only be made by the mediator.

The right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child.  Major decisions include, but are not limited to, authorization for non-emergency health care, enrolling a child in counseling, choice of school, choice of religion, consent to marry, enter the military or obtain a driver's license, etc.

  • Joint Legal Custody:  A condition where both parents share legal custody and neither parent’s legal custody rights are superior to the other parent’s.  The law presumes that parents will have joint legal custody.
  • Sole Legal Custody:  A condition where only one parent has legal custody.

A lawsuit filed that separates property and debts, and establishes placement and custody for minor children of the marriage, but that does not dissolve (end) the marriage.

This document contains the full agreement of the divorcing parents on placement, custody and all financial and property division issues.  This agreement, once filed with the court, will signal the court to schedule a final divorce hearing.

A cooperative process involving the parents and a mediator(s), the purpose of which is to help the parents improve their communication issues and resolve their disputes regarding placement and custody with the best interest of the child as the main focus.

The plan proposed by each parent that outlines that parent’s wishes for how legal custody and physical placement should be finalized.

A lawsuit filed by a parent that feels the other parent has intentionally failed to follow an order related to placement and custody.

The physical location of the child on any given day, frequently referred to as the schedule.  Placement will be allocated to ensure the child has regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with both parents and that maximize time with each parent.


  • Routine Daily Decisions:  Decisions made in a parent’s household during the time the child is physically placed with that parent.  Examples are discipline, rules of conduct, bedtime, etc. 


  • Primary Physical Placement:  A schedule wherein one parent has a greater number of overnights with the child in their home. 


  • Shared Physical Placement:  A schedule wherein the parents have an approximately equal number of overnights with the child.


  • Option of First Care:  This term refers to the situation when the parent that has placement is unable to be present, he/she offers the other parent the time with the child first instead of getting a baby sitter.

This describes a lawsuit that is filed after parents have divorced.  This is typically a lawsuit filed to change legal custody or physical placement.

A formal written agreement between the parents.

An order which sets out the rules that the parents must follow while the case is pending in court.  The temporary order ends once the court makes a final order.

To encourage families to adjust to life after separating, this is a part of the law that makes it difficult for either parent to ask the court to make a new order on placement or custody within the first two years after a divorce has been finalized.