Written by attorney Karen Stolp Poirier

Connecticut Divorce, Custody and Child Support Terms and Definitions

Advisement of rights – A form advising obligor’s of their rights concerning wage-withholdings. (See “obligor" and “ wage-withholding".)

Alimony – Periodic payments from one spouse to the other. This may be before the divorce is final and/or for a set period of time after the divorce. (See “pendent lite orders.") In many cases, the remarriage or cohabitation (living with a girlfriend or boyfriend) of the spouse receiving the alimony will be cause to modify or terminate the alimony.

Appearance – A simple form filed with the Court advising of your name, address, telephone number, etc. If not filed by a defendant, he or she will not receive notices from the Court and court orders, including a judgment, could be entered in his or her absence. (See “default divorce".) An appearance form is should be filed before the return date in order to avoid a default, however it may be filed at any point during the pendency of an action. (See “return date".)

Arrearage – A sum of money, past due, owed by one party to the other party. Usually, an arrearage refers to past due child support, but may also be used to refer to past due alimony. (See “child support" and “alimony".)

Automatic orders – Orders of the Court that are automatically in effect once an action is filed. Violation of these orders can result in a finding of contempt, monetary sanctions or even, in rare cases, incarceration.

Case management agreement- A form required by the court to be signed by both parties and submitted prior to the case management date. (See “case management date".) This form informs the court of the general outstanding disputes and the manner in which the parties will proceed.

Case management date – In general, the earliest possible date by which the parties can be divorced – usually about 90 days from the return date. (See “return date".) The case management agreement must be filed by this date. (See “case management agreement")

Child support – Periodic payments, usually from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the purposes of supporting a minor child or children. (See “non-custodial parent" and “custodial parent".) Child support payments often ordered ordered before final judgment or before a divorce is final. (See “pendent lite orders.")

Child support guidelines – A form used to calculate the amount of weekly child support a person is obligated to pay. The amount of child support owed is based on numerous factors including the number of children and the parties’ income. - Is usually synonymous with primary residence. (See “primary residence".)

Custodial Parent – Generally, the parent with whom the child primarily resides. (See “primary residence" and “physical custody".)

Custody– Contrary to popular belief, custody, technically, has nothing to do with where the child lives. Custody refers to decision making regarding the welfare of the child, i.e. – what school the child attends, what religion the child will be brought up in, whether or not the child requires surgery or braces. (See “primary residence" and “physical custody.")

Default divorce – A divorce granted by the court by default. This usually occurs when one party chooses not to participate in the divorce process by failing to file an appearance or failing to appear for court hearings.

Dissolution (Dissolution of Marriage)– The legal word for divorce.

Exclusive use – Usually used to describe the right of one party, through a court order, to exclusively use and live in the marital home. Exclusive use may also refer to a vehicle or other personal property.

Family Relations Officers – State of Connecticut employees who usually have education, training and experience in family relations. In most cases when you go to court, you will not be heard by a judge until you have met with family relations. Family relations officers will attempt to help you and the opposing party reach an agreement on the issues.

Financial affidavit – A form filed with the court showing a party’s income, assets and expenditures. This form, together with the child support guidelines will be used to calculate child support. (See “child support guidelines".) It may also be examined by the court to determine alimony and distribution of the parties’ property. (See “alimony".)

Guardian ad litem – A person, usually an attorney, appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a minor child or children.

Joint Custody – When both parents have the right to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child. Sometimes, the court will order the parties to come to consult each other when making such decisions, but will leave final say with one party.

Juris number – A number assigned by the state to attorneys and firms. Individuals who are not attorneys do not need to fill out this portion of the appearance form. (See “appearance form.")

Motion for contempt – A motion filed with court when one party believes the other party is in violation of a court order.

Motion to modify – A motion filed with the court when one party wishes to have a court order changed.

Non-custodial Parent – Generally, the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside.

Obligor – The person who owes money to the other party. Usually used in the context of child support.

Obligee– The person who is owed money from the other party. Usually used in the context of child support.

Parenting Education Program – A 6 hour course that the court requires all parties with minor children to attend. The class is intended to educate parents about the issues concerning the children involved in a divorce or custody dispute.

Pendente lite motion– A motion filed with the court during the pendency of the action, prior to final judgment.

Pendente lite order – Orders of the court during the pendency of the action, prior to final judgment. These may be orders for just about anything, but usually pertain to use of the home, custody of the children, child support and alimony.

Physical custody – Usually synonymous with primary residence. (See “primary residence".) The parent with whom the child primarily resides is generally said to have physical custody.

Primary residence – The home of the parent with whom child primarily resides. This is usually the home located in the child’s school district. (See “physical custody".)

Pro se- A self-represented party. A party without an attorney.

Return date – The date by which a summons, complaint and return of service is to be returned to the court. Also, the date by which a defendant is supposed to file an appearance.

Sole custody – When one parent is solely responsible for decision making concerning the welfare of the child. Sole custody does not mean that the other parent does not have visitation.

Supervised visitation– When the court orders that the non-custodial parent’s time with the minor child be supervised by a third party. Sometimes the supervisor may be a professional, other times it may be a family member or even the other parent. (See “non-custodial".)

Uncontested dissolution/divorce - When the parties are divorced pursuant to an agreement, as opposed to having a trial.

Visitation – Time the non-custodial parent spends with the minor child. (See “non-custodial".)

Wage-withholding – An order of the court requiring that child support or other sorts of periodic payments be paid to the obligee directly from the obligor’s employer.

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