Written by attorney Melissa Ann Graham-Hurd

Vocabulary List for Divorce and Domestic Relations Cases in Ohio

Divorce Vocabulary

Action: the legal term for a lawsuit

Affidavit: a written statement sworn to under oath and signed before a Notary Public

Allegation: statement contained in a pleading or affidavit

Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities:“custody"; the legal right and responsibility awarded by a court for the care, possession and rearing of a child; can be sole allocation or shared parenting; applies between parents.

Answer: the second pleading in an action, which admits or denies allegations of the Complaint

Appeal: process whereby a higher court reviews the orders of the lower court

Appearance: a party’s method of telling the court that he/she submits to jurisdiction

Change of Venue: a change of the place within the state where the case is heard

Child Support: financial support paid for children, non-taxable to recipient, non-deductible to payor

Complaint: the first pleading in a case, setting forth the allegations on which the requested relief is based

Contempt of Court: willful and intentional failure to abide by a court’s order; punishable in a number of ways, including fines, jail sentences, etc.

Contested case: any case where a court must decide one or more issues

Court order: written document issued by a court; effective when signed by judge/magistrate and filed with Clerk; the Court only speaks through its written orders.

Cross-examination: the questioning of a witness by the opposition at a hearing or deposition

Custody: now called the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, as between parents. “Legal custody" as a concept applies to persons who are not the child’s parents, but are responsible for raising the child by a Court’s order.

Defendant: person being sued by Plaintiff

Deposition: one of the discovery procedures: testimony of a witness taken under oath and out of court but recorded by a court reporter

Direct examination: initial questioning of a witness by the person calling the witness

Discovery: process of gathering information relevant to the case; can be by means of Interrogatories, Deposition, Request for Production, etc.

Emancipation: the point when a child is treated as an adult; usually 18 and out of high school

Evidence: testimony, documents or other material offered to the court to prove or disprove the allegations

Ex parte: without the other side being present

Grounds: the reason alleged for granting the complaint

Guardian ad Litem: person appointed by the Court to report his/her opinion as to the child’s best interests

Hearing: proceeding before the court for the purpose of resolving disputed issues by decision of the court

Hold harmless: a situation in which one spouse assumes liability for a debt and promises to protect the other from any loss or expense in connection with it

Indemnification: the promise to reimburse the other for losses incurred after a promise to hold harmless;

Interrogatories: one of the available discovery procedures: a series of written questions served on opposing party to discover facts; answered under oath

Jurisdiction: the authority of the court to rule on matters and issues presented

Magistrate’s Order/Decision: written document prepared by the court after a hearing, but not a final order of the court

Marital Property: income or property earned or acquired during the marriage; everything else except “separate property"

Mediation: process by which a neutral third party facilitates negotiation between the parties; is not arbitration (decision-making) but helping the parties make decisions together

Motion: a written application to the court for relief

Notice: document served on the other side giving notice of time and date of a hearing, an address, etc.

Order: the court’s written ruling on issues, requires the parties to do things stated; sets forth parties’ responsibilities; effective when signed and filed with Clerk

Parenting Time: “visitation"; schedule for children’s time with parents

Party: the people named in the action whose rights or interests will be affected by the orders

Plaintiff: the party who files the Complaint, the first pleading

Pleading: formal; written application to the court for relief and response to it; complaints, answers, counterclaims, replies, motions are all pleadings

Pro se: person who goes to court representing himself/herself

Relief: what the party asks the court to do in his/her pleadings

Reply: the answer to a counterclaim

Request for Production of Documents: one of the discovery procedures: a list of documents to be produced within a fixed period of time, usually 28 days after the Request is served

Restraining Order: a court order forbidding a party from doing an act that is likely to cause harm to another party or a child

Rules: the rules that govern the conduct of the court (Civil Rules), presentation of evidence (Rules of Evidence) and the organization of the Courts (Rules of Superintendence), all issued by the Ohio Supreme Court; each locality also has the ability to issue Local Rules

Separate property: property belonging to only one spouse; property owned prior to marriage, sometimes after separation; property received by inheritance or gift to just that one spouse

Separation Agreement: the agreement of the parties reduced to writing or placed on the record in open court and made a part of the court’s order

Set Off: when parties each owe sums of money to each other, a debt of one spouse deducted from the debt of the other spouse

Settlement: the agreed resolution of the disputed items

Show Cause: written application to the court for a holding of contempt

Spousal Support: the new term for “alimony"; support paid from one party to another; taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor.

Stipulation: agreement between the parties as to a fact, or series of facts

Subpoena: a document served on a party or witness requiring appearance at court; Subpoena Duces Tecum requires the person subpoenaed to bring documents to court with him/her.

Summons: a written notification that a legal action has commenced and requires a response within a fixed time period

Temporary motions: application to the court for interim relief; typical are requests for parenting, support, and use of property during the pendency of the action

Testimony: statements made under oath by a witness

Transcript: a typewritten record of testimony of a witness

Trial: a formal court hearing before a Judge to decide disputed issues

Visitation: now called “Parenting Time" as between parents; Visitation is still granted to people who are not parents, such as grandparents, relatives, other persons who can show that they have an abiding interest in the welfare of the child, have a history of interaction with the child and that continued contact with the child will serve the child’s best interests.


Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer