If you are unclear on how best to explain divorce to your children, consult this guide of words that will help you put your complicated family situation into simpler terms. You can also browse our list of frequently asked questions about divorce for answers to other questions and concerns.

  • Child Custody: A plan describing who children will live with, who will take care of them, and who will make decisions for them. Also called “parental responsibilities.”
  • Child Support: The amount of money one parent will pay to the other to help with the care of the children.
  • Counselor: An adult whose job it is to listen and help people learn to feel better and understand their problems.
  • Divorce: Legal judgment that permanently ends a marriage. Also called “dissolution” of marriage.
  • Expert: An adult who is especially knowledgeable in a certain field, such as a counselor, special advocate, a lawyer or an accountant.
  • Joint Custody: A legal arrangement that allows both parents to continue to care for and be responsible for their children.
  • Judgment: An official decision of a Court.
  • Lawyer: An adult whose job it is to help a husband or wife complete a divorce.
  • Legal Separation: A legal arrangement that allows a husband and wife to be physically and financially living apart.
  • Maintenance: Money one spouse pays to the other to provide financial support after they are no longer together. Also called “alimony.”
  • Mediator: An expert who helps a divorcing couple discuss and settle arguments about their divorce.
  • Motion: A written or oral request made to the Court.
  • Permanent Orders: Decisions that are made by the Court during a hearing at the end of the divorce.
  • Petition: Legal paper that starts a divorce case.
  • Restraining Orders: Orders issued by the Court that restrict someone from doing things.
  • Separation Agreement: Written agreement between husband and wife that describe the terms by which they agree to end the marriage and the rules they will abide by after the divorce.
  • Special Advocate: An expert who helps to determine what is best for the children.
  • Spouse: Either the husband or the wife.
  • Subpoena: A form issued by the Court requiring someone to appear in Court or produce specific papers.
  • Temporary Orders: A temporary agreement about things like debt, money, child support or responsibilities of the parents. Sometimes issued until permanent orders can be attained.
  • Visitation: Specific time where children can spend time with the parent they are not living with. Also called “parenting time.”
  • Witness: Someone who testifies in Court