If you are facing a divorce in Texas, you are facing challenges ahead, and the fact that you are almost certainly going to have a bunch of legal terms thrown your way does not help. Knowing the basic divorce terms that tend to be used most commonly in Texas can help you feel like you have a better handle on the situation and can help you move forward with increased confidence and purpose.
The Legal Terms
Let’s take a look at those terms that are most likely to play a role in your case.
Petitioner and Respondent
The petitioner is the spouse who files for divorce, and the respondent is the other spouse. While these terms may sound heavy with meaning (and very impersonal), they really are just a legal mechanism for identifying which spouse is which.
Community property refers to what you may think of as your marital property, and in a Texas divorce, it must be divided equitably (which is the legal term for fairly). Those assets that you acquired as a married couple are considered community property, with the following exceptions:
Any gifts either of you received in your name only
Any inheritances that were in one spouse’s name only
These – along with any assets that either of you brought into the marriage with you – remain your own separate property.
What you think of as custody is called conservatorship by the State of Texas, and it determines how your children will divide their time between you and your ex’s home and who will be responsible for making important decisions on their behalf. Within conservatorship, the following terms apply:
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the children live the majority of the time.
If both parents share this role, they are called joint managing conservators, which is what you likely think of as joint custody.
Your parenting plan lays out how you and your ex will proceed in relation to your parenting schedules, child support, and other matters related to raising your children post-divorce.
Spousal maintenance is what you likely know as alimony, and it is only implemented when a divorce leaves one spouse with a financial deficit and the other spouse has the financial means to help.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a fancy term for what you likely think of as mediation (which is a specific kind of ADR). Most divorces settle out of court, and many are resolved at mediation – where a professional mediator helps couples explore compromises and find a middle ground.