Legal Jargon for Divorce and Child Custody in Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Legal Jargon for Divorce and Child Custody in Philadelphia Pennsylvania

There are so many different levels of law across our land, is it any wonder the laws vary so much from city to city, county to county, and state to state? If you are facing a divorce and/or a child custody battle for your children, this article is designed to provide the most common legal terms applying to your situation to help you make better informed legal decisions. Along with their definitions, this list of terms is not exhaustive, but common for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

  • Affidavit- sworn statement in writing, usually made under oath or on affirmation before a magistrate or officer.

  • Alimony- also called maintenance or support, the financial support ordered by the Court for the support or living maintenance of a spouse.

  • Contested Divorce- any issue on which the petitioner and respondent cannot agree, which must then be decided by the court (either before a judge or jury).

  • Custodial Parent- the parent who has physical custody of the child.

  • Default judgment- all parties have been served but one or both do not appear at the court hearing, so the Court can render a default decision.

  • Discovery- pretrial disclosure of pertinent facts and documents, including financial figures, by one or both parties.

  • Docket- the court’s calendar schedule.

  • Hearing- a court session in which testimony or arguments are offered by attorneys or involved parties for the purpose of resolving a legal dispute.

  • Fault Divorce- used in Contested Divorce cases where a legal ground for divorce must be declared.

  • Grounds- the legal basis for action or complaint for divorce.

  • Joint Legal Custody- situation in which both parents continue to make joint decisions for their child’s education, medical care, religious training, and other day to day matters.

  • Joint Physical Custody- situation wherein the child spends time sleeping in both parents’ homes.

  • No-Fault Divorce- a divorce in which neither party has been accused of or found guilty of any misconduct, and commonly called an Uncontested or Non-Contested Divorce.

  • Non-Custodial Parent- the parent with whom the child is not physically living.

  • Pass for service- when one or both parents have not been served, a postponement of the hearing is usually requested.

  • Petitioner- the spouse who files for divorce.

  • Respondent- the spouse whom the Petitioner is seeking to divorce.

  • Service- the act of serving the respondent with legal papers, such as the Notice of Petition for Dissolution.

  • Summons- written notice to appear in court either as a defendant or a witness.

  • Visitation- the legal right of a Non-Custodial parent to see his or her child.

If these terms are confusing and seem too complicated, then it is highly likely you will need a professional who is an expert in legal jargon and the inner workings of your local court systems. Contact us right now at, and we will help you find a divorce lawyer in your area who understands all the different levels of law for not only divorce but for child custody too.

(Note: Please feel free to print out this page in order to have the terms readily available when you need them. Understanding these common terms will help you even when you visit for the first time with your lawyer.)