Glossary of Terms

Adoption - A two-step judicial process in conformance to state statutory provisions in which the legal obligations and rights of a child toward the biological parents are terminated and new rights and obligations are created between the child and the adoptive parents.

Alimony - an allowance made to one spouse by the other for support pending or after legal separation or divorce.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) - Methods of resolving legal disputes without going to trial, in a less adversarial manner, such as through arbitration or mediation.

Annulment - A judgment by a court that retroactively invalidates a marriage to the date of its formation.

Arbitration - An alternative dispute resolution method in which parties involved in a controversy hire an impartial person, called an arbitrator or a group to help them resolve their differences.

Arrearage - Money remaining unpaid after it becomes due.

Child Custody - The care, control, and maintenance of a child, which a court may award to one of the parents following a Divorce or separation proceeding. In Texas, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship.”

Child Support - A payment that a noncustodial parent makes as a contribution to the costs of raising her or his child.

Child Support Guidelines - Guidelines established by statute or rule in each jurisdiction that set forth the manner in which child support must be calculated, generally based on the income of the parents and the needs of the children.

Cohabitation - An emotionally and physically intimate relationship, which includes a common living place and exists without legal or religious sanction.

Collaborative Law - A binding, non-litigation approach to solving legal problems in which parties engage in a series of settlement meetings outside the courthouse.

Community Property - property held jointly by husband and wife ;specif : property esp. from employment and debts acquired by either spouse after marriage that is deemed in states having a community property system to belong to each spouse as an undivided one-half interest.

Contempt of Court - An act of disobeying a court order.

Conservator - A guardian and protector appointed by a judge to protect and manage the financial affairs and/or the person's daily life due to physical or mental limitations or old age.

Custody - he care, possession, and control of a thing or person. The retention, inspection, guarding, maintenance, or security of a thing within the immediate care and control of the person to whom it is committed. The detention of a person by lawful authority or process.

Decree - A judgment of a court that announces the legal consequences of the facts found in a case and orders that the court's decision be carried out.

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Default -An omission; a failure to do that which is anticipated, expected, or required in a given situation.

Deposition - The testimony of a party or witness in a civil or criminal proceeding taken before trial, usually in an attorney's office.

Discovery - A category of procedural devices employed by a party to a civil or criminal action, prior to trial, to require the adverse party to disclose information that is essential for the preparation of the requesting party's case and that the other party alone knows or possesses.

Disposition - The final settlement of a matter and, with reference to decisions announced by a court, a judge's ruling is commonly referred to as disposition, regardless of level of resolution.

Dissolution - Act or process of dissolving; termination; winding up. In this sense it is frequently used in the phrase dissolution of a partnership.

Divorce - A court decree that terminates a marriage; also known as marital dissolution.

DNA Testing - A medical procedure used to determine the parents of a child by testing the chromosomes of each parent and child.

Domestic Violence - Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence.

Enforcement - the act or process of enforcing [ of the debt]

Equitable Division - the distribution of marital assets by a court in a divorce action in accordance with statutory guidelines that are designed to produce a fair but not necessarily equal division of the property

Garnishment - A legal remedy whereby a debtor's property or money in the possession or under the control of a third person (garnishee) is withheld from the debtor and applied to the debt.

Guardian - A person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the obligation, of taking care of and managing the property and rights of a person who, because of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his or her own affairs.

Guardian Ad Litem - A guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of Infants, the unborn, or incompetent persons in legal actions.

Income - The return in money from one's business, labor, or capital invested; gains, profits, salary, wages, etc.

Interrogatories - Written questions submitted to a party from his or her adversary to ascertain answers that are prepared in writing and signed under oath and that have relevance to the issues in a lawsuit.

Joint Managing Conservatorship - In Texas, joint managing conservatorship refers to the child custody arrangement in which both parents by agreement or by court order share the rights, duties and privileges concerning their children after a divorce.

Judgment - a formal decision or determination on a matter or case by a court

Jurisdiction - The geographic area over which authority extends; legal authority; the authority to hear and determine causes of action.

Marital Settlement Agreement - A settlement agreement reached between parties to a divorce or legal separation, resolving all outstanding disputes between the Parties.

Mediation - A settlement of a dispute or controversy by setting up an independent person between two contending parties in order to aid them in the settlement of their disagreement.

Modification Order - An order of the court that alters, changes, extends, amends, limits, or reduces an earlier order of the court.

Motion - A written or oral application made to a court or judge to obtain a ruling or order directing that some act be done in favor of the applicant.

Non-Custodial Parent - The parent who does not have physical custody of the child(ren).

Obligee - One to whom another is under obligation by a contract or legal agreement.

Oligor - One who is under obligation to another by contract or legal agreement.

Parenting Plan - A written plan describing how custody will be shared between parents after the parents divorce or separate.

Paternity - The state or condition of a father; the relationship of a father.

Payee - The person who is to receive the stated amount of money on a check, bill, or note.

Payor - The one who must make payment on a promissory note.

Petition - A written application from a person or persons to some governing body or public official asking that some authority be exercised to grant relief, favors, or privileges.

Petitioner - Often, the person who initiates divorce or marriage dissolution proceedings, also called the plaintiff.

Possessory Conservatorship - In Texas, possessory conservatorship refers to the child custody arrangement in which one parent by agreement or by court order is given some rights in a child’s upbringing, when the other parent is designated as sole managing conservator and has the primary responsibility for a child or children after a divorce.

Premarital Agreement - A contract made in anticipation of marriage that specifies the rights and obligations of the parties. Such an agreement typically includes terms for property distribution in the event the marriage terminates.

Prenuptial Agreement - a written contract between two people who are about to marry, setting out the terms of possession of assets, treatment of future earnings, control of the property of each, and potential division if the marriage is later dissolved. These agreements are fairly common if either or both parties have substantial assets, children from a prior marriage, potential inheritances, high incomes, or have been "taken" by a prior spouse.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (Qdro) - Pronounced "kwah-dro," is a legal order subsequent to a divorce or legal separation that splits and changes ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse their share of the asset or pension plan. QDROs may grant ownership in the participant's (employee's) pension plan to an alternate payee, who must be a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of the participant. A QDRO may provide for marital or community property division between the participant and the alternate payee, or for the payment of alimony or child support to the alternate payee.

Respondent – the party who answers a bill or other proceeding in equity. The party against whom an appeal or motion, an application for a court order, is instituted and who is required to answer in order to protect his or her interests.

Restraining Order - A command of the court issued upon the filing of an application for an Injunction, prohibiting the defendant from performing a threatened act until a hearing on the application can be held.

Separate Property - Generally, property owned by either spouse prior to marriage or acquired by them individually, such as by gift or inheritance, during the marriage.

Service - The delivery of a legal document that notifies the recipient of the commencement of a legal action or proceeding in which he or she is involved.

Settlement Conference - A settlement conference is a meeting between opposing sides of a lawsuit at which the parties attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute without having to proceed to a trial. Such a conference may be initiated through either party, usually by the conveyance of a settlement offer; or it may be ordered by the court as a precedent (preliminary step) to holding a trial.

Sole Managing Conservatorship - In Texas, sole managing conservatorship refers to the child custody arrangement in which one parent by agreement or by court order is given the sole rights, duties and privileges concerning a child or children after a divorce.

Spousal Support or Maintenance - Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse during separation or following divorce. Also called alimony.

Subpoena - A formal document that orders a named individual to appear before a duly authorized body at a fixed time to give testimony.

Temporary Restraining Order - A court order that lasts only until the court can hear further evidence.

Richard D. Hayes


Byron R. Berry

Denton, Gainesville, Flower Mound, Celina

Don R. White Jr.


Lance Vanzant

Denton, Celina

Brian K. Tackett

Denton, Flower Mound

Jeffrey A. Hines


Dorwin “Trey” Sargent


William Scazzero


Thomas E. Little


Colby G. Berry

Denton, Gainesville, Flower Mound, Celina

Cody J. Lewis