DIVORCE

Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the termination of a marriage or marital union, the canceling and/or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country and/or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of alimony (spousal support), child custody, child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, distribution of property, and division of debt.

LEGAL SEPARATION

Legal separation is a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married. A legal separation is granted in the form of a court order. Furthermore, in cases where children are involved, a court order of legal separation often makes temporary arrangements for the care, custody, and financial support of the children ("for the time being"). Thus, part of the court order determines child custody. Some couples obtain a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce, based on moral or religious objections to divorce.

Legal separation does not automatically lead to divorce. The couple might reconcile, in which case they do not have to do anything in order to continue their marriage. If the two do not reconcile, and they wish to proceed with a divorce, they must file for divorce explicitly.

PATERNITY

A Paternity case is a legal action filed by an unmarried mother or unmarried father to establish who is the legal father of a child or children. Unmarried parents must first establish paternity to get child support or a custody and visitation order.

CUSTODY

“Child custody and visitation (parenting time) are terms which are used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the child to make decisions, and the parent's duty to care for the child.  There is a distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘physical’ custody. Legal custody refers to which parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the children’s health, education and welfare. Physical custody refers to which parent your children will live with and when.  Visitation (also called “parenting time”) is the plan for how the parents will share time with the children. A parent who has the children less than half of the time has visitation with the children. Visitation orders are varied, depending on the best interests of the children, the situation of the parents, and other factors.

CHILD SUPPORT

Child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.Depending on the jurisdiction, a custodial parent may pay child support to a non-custodial parent. Typically one has the same duty to pay child support irrespective of sex, so a mother is required to pay support to a father just as a father must pay a mother. In some jurisdictions where there is joint custody, the child is considered to have two custodial parents and no non-custodial parents, and a custodial parent with a higher income (obligor) may be required to pay the other custodial parent (obligee). In other jurisdictions, and even with legally shared residence, unless they can prove exactly equal contributions, one parent will be deemed the non-resident parent for child support and will have to pay the other parent a proportion of their income; the "resident" parent's income or needs are not assessed.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

A domestic violence restraining order is a court order that helps protect people from abuse, and/or threats of abuse from someone they have a close relationship with. Abuse is defined as any of the following: Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone intentionally or recklessly; Sexual assault; Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone); Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone, disturbing someone's peace, or destroying someone's personal property, or impersonating someone on the Internet in order to harm or intimidate them.  If you are the victim of domestic violence it is important that you act immediately to get protection, since your delay may be interpreted by the court that you do not need immediate protection.  If you have been served with a temporary domestic violence restraining order, it is also important that you also act right away, since delaying your response may prejudice you by having a permanent restraining order issued against you.