Legal Glossary

Some common terms you might hear as part of your dissolution, custody, or support case


A written statement that counts as testimony because it sworn to in front of a notary public or court clerk. A declaration, which means a declaration made under penalty of perjury without the requirement of being sworn to in front of a witness is sufficient for virtually all filings.


Called “spousal support” in Oregon. Spousal support consists of financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse while the parties are physically separated, while a divorce or legal separation proceeding is pending, or following a divorce or legal separation. In Oregon, there are three types of spousal support: transitional, compensatory and maintenance. They are determined based on statutory factors in ORS 107.105. They are defined in greater detail below.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):

An acronym for “Alternative Dispute Resolution.” ADR is an out of court settlement process, such as mediation. Some states mandate ADR for divorcing parties, although parties maintain the right to have a judge decide their case. If parties settle, they may present their written settlement agreement to a judge who rules on its fairness and grants a divorce. Even after mediating, the parties may not agree to be divorced. Many courts in Oregon require divorcing parties to attend mediation before trial, particularly if children are involved.


A method of legally obliterating a marriage, as if it never occurred, because the marriage was invalid from the time the parties “married.” In Oregon, a marriage can be annulled only if either spouse was not of legal age or sufficient understanding to marry, if either spouse’s consent to marry was obtained by force or fraud, if either spouse was already married, or if spouses are first cousins or nearer of kin to each other. You can get the same relief in an annulment case as in a divorce or legal separation case. An annulment differs from a divorce in that the law treats an annulled marriage as having never occurred. An annulment differs from a legal separation in that the marriage is terminated and rescinded. An annulment may be used when a person’s religious beliefs prevent him or her from obtaining a divorce.


In family law in Oregon, also called a response. A legal document used to respond to the complaint or petition. Answers or responses usually admit or deny specific allegations or claims in the document being answered, and may also ask for specific relief, just as a petition might do.


A procedure to ask a higher court to review the ruling of a lower court. In Oregon, a party is entitled to one appeal “of right,” which means the case will proceed to the Court of Appeals automatically, if the correct rules are followed. The arguments made at the Court of Appeals are purely legal and rely on the testimony and exhibits presented at the trial court. If a party is unhappy with the ruling in the Court of Appeals, he or she may try to get the Oregon Supreme Court to grant a petition for review of the Court of Appeals’ ruling, but this is not “of right.” The Oregon Supreme Court only grants about 5% of the petitions for review it receives.


Coming into court as a party to a case or voluntarily submitting to the power of a court. Usually this is not a physical act, but a lawyer filing a document. Your lawyer might file a “Notice of Appearance of Counsel.” Sometimes a party who agrees to everything in a dissolution or custody petition will file a “Waiver of Appearance” to speed up the action.


Submitting a disputed matter for decision to a person who is not a judge. When a divorce action involves only property issues, this may be mandatory in divorce cases. In family law, an appeal from arbitration is to the circuit court for de novo review, which means the court looks at the evidence without reference to the arbitrator’s decision.


Money for child or spousal support that a court has ordered but has not been paid and is now past due.

“Best interests of the child” standard:

When an Oregon court determines custody of a child, it uses the “best interest of the child” standard. This standard has been codified in the ORS 107.137. None of the following is supposed to be the main factor in deciding custody, but instead the court will look at all the following factors:

(a) The emotional ties between the child and other family members;

(b) The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;

(c) The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;

(d) The abuse of one parent by the other;

(e) The preference for the primary care giver of the child, if the care giver is deemed fit by the court; and

(f) The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider such willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of behavior of abuse against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent or the child.

In considering a child’s best interests, the court is limited in factoring in a parent’s disability unless the court finds the disability is or will likely endanger the healt, safety or welfare of the child.

(3) If a party has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ( 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.), the court may not consider that party’s disability in determining custody unless the court finds that behaviors or limitations of the party that are related to the party’s disability are endangering or will likely endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.

In considering a child’s best interests, the court is limited in considering lifestyle factors of either parent unless they are causing or may cause emotional or physical harm to the child.

(4) In determining custody of a minor child under ORS 107.105 or 107.135, the court shall consider the conduct, marital status, income, social environment or lifestyle of either party only if it is shown that any of these factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical damage to the child.

In considering a child’s best interests, the court cannot give preference to a parent because they are the mother, or because they are the father.

(5) No preference in custody shall be given to the mother over the father for the sole reason that she is the mother, nor shall any preference be given to the father over the mother for the sole reason that he is the father.

Child Support:

Money that one parent pays to the other for the support of a child or children. Here in Oregon, a standard amount of support is based on a formula in the Oregon Administrative Rules, but this number can be higher or lower depending on specific situations.

Child Support Guidelines:

Guidelines established by statute or rule in each jurisdiction that set forth how child support must be calculated, generally based on the income of the parents and the needs of the children. The Oregon formula also considers whether a parent receives or pays spousal support, how many nights a child spends with each parent, how much a parent pays in medical or childcare costs, and other specific criteria.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law giving you and your covered dependents the right to continue group health coverage after a divorce or loss of a job when your eligibility for employer-sponsored group medical and dental insurance is lost through loss of employment or through divorce. COBRA eligibility is usually for 18 or 36 months after the event. You are responsible for the cost of COBRA.


Cost of Living Adjustment. Sometimes support orders will involve periodic COLAs, so the support keeps pace with inflation and other increased costs.

Collaborative Law:

Collaborative Practice, including Collaborative Law and interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce, is a new way for you to resolve disputes respectfully — without going to court — while working with trained professionals who are important to all areas of your life. The heart of Collaborative Practice or Collaborative Divorce (also called “no-court divorce,” “divorce with dignity,” “peaceful divorce”) is to offer you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers without going to court. Additionally, Collaborative Divorce allows you the benefit of child and financial specialists, divorce coaches and other professionals all working together on your team.

Compensatory Spousal Support:

Financial support paid to a compensate a divorced or separated spouse, who made a significant contribution toward the other spouse’s education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity during the marriage. For example: a man who put his wife through medical school could ask the court for compensatory spousal support, to compensate him for that financial investment.


Oregon has two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about your child or children, including but not limited to residence, education, healthcare, and religion. Joint custody means the parents share these rights, while sole legal custody means that only one parent has these rights. Physical custody is where the child or children live.

Common Law Marriage:

A marriage without license or ceremony recognized by the law in the state it was created. Oregon does not recognize common law marriage. A common law marriage is not the same thing as a domestic partnership, which Oregon does recognize.

Contempt of Court:

When a person violates a court order or judgment, the court may order that person held in contempt of court. It also includes conduct in court which obstructs a court in the administration of justice. A person found in contempt may have to pay steep penalties, face sanctions, and may even be incarcerated.


Any issue about which the petitioner and respondent do not agree, which must then be decided by the court. Issues that the petitioner and respondent agree on are said to be uncontested.


Asking questions of a witness who was put on the standby the other lawyer. Cross-examination is usually intended to discredit the witness or weaken the effect of the testimony. Evidentiary rules limit cross-examination to topics about which the witness testified directly.

Declaration: A signed record or statement under oath.


The parties’ final agreement or an order dissolving a marriage. Decrees are now called “General Judgments.” Often “decree” and “judgment” are used interchangeably.


After a petition is filed and a respondent is served, the respondent has thirty days to respond before the petitioner can seek a court order preventing filing a response or answer. (Sometimes an extension may be granted to a respondent.) A default order may also result after a respondent does not to answer a motion to modify. If a party served with a lawsuit, including a divorce or separation, fails to file an answer or appear in court in the required time, the court can award to the party who filed the lawsuit everything requested in his or her petition.


The person against whom a lawsuit is filed. In a family law case, the person against whom a divorce or separation is filed is called a respondent.


Before the parties go to court, an attorney may ask to depose the other party or a witness. Usually, depositions take place in an attorney’s office, and a court reporter is present. A person who is deposed (the deponent) is sworn to tell the truth. A deposition is to find out what a party or witness’s testimony would be at trial, or to find out more about the party’s financial or social situation. A deposition transcript is a useful tool if the parties proceed to trial if a party or witness attempts to change his or her testimony.

Direct Examination:

When an attorney calls a witness directly at court, the result is direct examination. The opposing attorney’s examination of that witness is called cross-examination.


During a legal action, discovery is the process exchanging information, including requests for production of documents, depositions, and requests for admissions. Discovery is a way of ensuring the parties to an action are familiar with the important evidence before trial.

Dissolution of Marriage:

The official term used in Oregon courts and statutes for a divorce.


The commonly used term for a “dissolution of marriage.” While most people refer to the termination of a marriage or the legal proceeding to terminate a marriage as a “divorce,” the term actually used in the statutes and courts in Oregon is “dissolution.” You may find that attorneys use the terms interchangeably, though.

Domestic Partnership:

When two unmarried people live together with an intention to pool their resources and assets, and share their property and debt, this is called a domestic partnership. Oregon does not recognize “common law” marriages, but domestic partnerships are recognized. Domestic partners can often obtain much of the same relief available to a divorcing couple, but not spousal support. Courts divide the parties’ property and debt according to their written agreement if one exists. If an agreement does not exist, the Court will attempt to discover the parties’ intent. Often the main issue in a domestic partnership case is if the parties intended to share assets and liabilities

Domestic Violence:

Physical abuse or threats of abuse between members of the same family or household. Sadly, domestic violence features in a substantial number of family law actions. Oregon provides a specific type of restraining order, the FAPA (see below), to help secure the safety of a victim of domestic violence.


The point at which children become financially independent, or reach the age of 18 or 21, depending on the wording of a state’s laws. In Oregon, a child is financially independent and no longer eligible for child support at age 18, or, if the child is attending school, until that child is 21. There are specific requirements for a “child attending school” that must be met.

Equitable Distribution:

A division of property fair in view of all the circumstances. An equitable distribution does not mean an equal distribution in many cases.


Proof presented at a hearing, including testimony, documents, or objects. What an attorney says in opening or closing statements is not evidence, but what the witnesses state under oath is evidence.


Tangible things presented at trial as evidence. An exhibit may consist of pictures, or documents, or maps, or any number of physical items.

Ex Parte:

Any application to a court for relief made when only one side is present. Often, the person or attorney who presents an ex parte motion to the court must provide notice he or she will be doing so to the other party.

Family Abuse Prevention Act Order:

A court order protecting a petitioner abused within the last 180 days from the respondent. A “FAPA” order is one type of restraining order that is specific to domestic violence where the abuser is a family member or sexual partner of the person abused. Abuse may be physical harm, threatened physical harm, or actions that place a person in fear of his or her safety.


A lawyer’s bill for legal services. Many fee arrangements are possible, but most family law fees are hourly. An hourly fee is a fee based on the time expended times an hourly rate. Some Oregon lawyers charge flat fees. A flat fee is, as you might expect, a flat rate for the action, no matter how many hours of work go into it. An attorney in a family law case may not charge a “contingency” fee, or a percentage of an award, like a personal injury attorney can. When you first meet with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask lawyers how they will bill you and how you will know where they have spent their time.


Documents to be filed with the court, such as a petition or a motion, are taken to the appropriate clerk to be officially filed. Sometimes attorneys will say “file” when they mean the official start of a case, such as when the petition is received by the court. Documents may be filed by mail or in person, and some courts allow (or require) that documents be filed electronically. There are very specific rules regarding filling, no matter which jurisdiction you are in.


If a party has been ordered to pay money to another, such as child support, and has failed to do so, the court may order that the money be directly taken (or garnished) from wages or from an account to satisfy the amount owed.


a person appointed by the court to appear on the behalf of a minor or incapacitated person. In family law cases, any party may request a guardian ad litem be appointed for a child or children. Often the guardian ad litem is an attorney.


A proceeding before a judge or other judicial officer.


Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Under HIPAA, the federal government established a federal minimum standard of privacy protections for patients. Regulations limit the ways sensitive medical information is released to health care providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, or other entities that act like health care providers or insurers. Information released under HIPAA to a third party not otherwise covered by HIPAA is no longer protected and may be used in other ways. For example, if a patient authorizes the release of his medical records to his employer, the employer might use that medical information in other, unintended ways.

Hold Harmless:

The contractual assumption of certain liabilities by a party who agrees: 1) not to look to the other party for assistance in satisfying such liabilities, and 2) to defend (‘indemnify’) the other party against third party claims, if a third party, say a creditor, sues you.

Home State:

The state where a child has lived with a parent (or a person acting as parent) for at least six consecutive months just before the start of child custody proceedings. If a child is less than six months old, then the state where the child has lived from birth. Determining a child’s home state is very important for a court to know if it has jurisdiction over the child.


A court order which requires a party to do some act or prohibits a party from doing some act.

Joint Legal Custody:

After a divorce or legal separation, joint legal custody is when the parents share the right to make important decisions about a child’s welfare. Many professionals believe this is the best way to raising a child after a divorce, if the parents are capable and the circumstances are appropriate. In Oregon, a judge cannot force parents to share joint legal custody, and it is possible only if both parents agree to it.

Joint Physical Custody:

Sharing the actual physical care and custody of a minor child(ren) by both parents.


The final decision of a court. A type of order. Also called a decree, as discussed above. A judgment is a final determination of the issues in a case, and it is what a party may appeal from. Certain limited judgments are available while an action is pending in a family law court, too.


For a court to properly hear a case, the court must have jurisdiction over both the parties and the subject matter. Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to bring the parties to a family law case into court and to make binding decisions regarding the parties and their property. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s ability to hear that type of case. For example, a family law court could not hear a patent law dispute.

Legal Custody:

Legal custody refers to the right to make the important decisions about a minor child(ren) regarding their residence, education, healthcare, religion, and so forth. Legal custody is further broken down into two categories: joint or sole legal custody, which have been defined separately.

Legal Separation:

This is a legal device or proceeding like a divorce in which the financial and legal lives of a married couple are separated and the parties stop cohabitating or living together. In a legal separation, the parties can obtain nearly all the same relief available through a divorce such as the division of their property and debts, child custody, and child and spousal support. However, the parties’ marriage is not terminated, and they remain legally married. A legal separation may be preferred because a person’s religious beliefs do not approve of or permit a divorce. It generally costs one dollar less to file a separation action compared to a dissolution of marriage action in Oregon.


A legal claim or charge on property for the payment of some debt, obligation, or duty. When a party does not pay the money, they are required to under a judgment and that party owns real estate, the party to whom the money is owed may seek a lien on the property.

Lis pendens:

This is a document filed with the county in which a piece of real property is located, letting anyone who checks on the title of the property know that the property is subject to a legal dispute. Often one party in a family law case will file a lis pendens when division of the property is at issue.


The proceedings during a lawsuit, from the initial filing to the entry of the final judgment.

Maintenance Support or Spousal Maintenance:

Financial payments made to a divorced or separated spouse for a specified or indefinite period. Maintenance support is most common in a long-term marriage, and it is intended to allow the less fortunate spouse to continue the standard of living established during the marriage. It is usually ordered when one spouse is at a significant disadvantage in his or her ability to support themself after the divorce because of age, or physical, mental, or emotional condition, or limited education, work experience, or earning potential.

Marital asset:

Oregon presumes that any property or asset acquired during the marriage should be equally divided. A party who disagrees with this presumption will present evidence to show that the asset or property at issue should not be equally divided. Property acquired during the marriage and subject to this presumption is called a marital asset.

Marital property:

In Oregon, this is a larger category of property than a marital asset. Marital property includes marital assets and any other property the parties own at the time of dissolution, even if the property was acquired by a party before the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is not subject to the rebuttable presumption, but any increase in value in that property may be.

Martial Settlement Agreement:

Either before filing for dissolution or in a dissolution action, the parties may agree about some or all the issues pending in their case. This agreement is a Marital Settlement Agreement, and it is honored by the court almost all of the time. The parties may then litigate the remaining issues in their case, or, if they’ve agreed to all issues, this agreement is then placed on the record and becomes the basis for the judgment of dissolution.


A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for resolving legal disputes without going to trial, using a trained and impartial third party who attempts to bring the parties together in mutual agreement.


An application to the court for an order. A motion can be written or oral. Motions must be supported by affidavits, or written and sworn statements, and specific laws.

Motion to Modify:

A motion put before the court requesting that changes be made in physical or legal custody, or in child support payments, thus modifying the existing arrangement. A motion to modify is a specific type of motion to show cause.

Motion to Show Cause:

A motion to show cause is a way of bringing the other party into court to ask for something or that the court order that something be done. In a show cause motion, a party essentially demands that the other party give reasons the moving party should not get what he or she is asking for. The wording of a show cause motion often trips people up because it is circular. Basically, the opposing party must show up and say why the other party is wrong, or the moving party will get what he or she has asked for by default.


A change in the judgment, based on a change of circumstances. Modifications often must be based on substantial and unforeseen changes of circumstances.

No-Fault Divorce:

A divorce granted without proving that one party is guilty of misconduct. Oregon is a no-fault state, which means that the parties do not have to prove desertion, or infidelity, or any other reason. “Irreconcilable differences” is all that’s required. Presentation of fault-based evidence is prohibited except for narrow circumstances relating to impact on joint children.

Noncustodial Parent:

The parent who does not have legal and/or physical custody of a child.

Non-joint Child:

If one party to a dissolution or custody case has a child with someone other than the person they’re currently litigating with, lawyers and judges will often call this child a “non-joint child.”

Nonmarital Property:

Generally, property owned by either spouse before the marriage or that is acquired individually or separately during the marriage, such as by gift or inheritance.


A ruling by the court.


A person who is owed something by another such as child or spousal support.


A person who owes something to another such as child or spousal support.

Parenting Plan:

A detailed plan that shows the schedule for when the children will be with each parent. Usually also contains terms regarding how the parents interact and deal with child related issues. A good parenting plan outlines each parent’s role in clear terms to prevent conflict in the future.

Parenting Time:

The time a parent spends with his or her children. Visitation is when someone other than a parent spends court-ordered time with a child.

Parenting Time Coordinator:

Usually, a mental health professional selected by parents or the court to act as an out-of-court decision-maker on child custody and visitation issues. The coordinator preferably acts under a court order to make decisions binding on the parents unless and until a court rules to the contrary. The Parenting Time Coordinator is usually compensated by one or both parents.

Physical Custody:

A parent’s right to have a child live in his or her home, and the responsibility for the care and upbringing of the child.


The person who initiates or files a family law proceeding.


The person who initiates or files legal proceedings. In family law matters, the plaintiff is called the petitioner.

Premarital Agreement:

An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial Agreement:

An agreement entered into before marriage that sets forth each party’s rights and responsibilities should the marriage terminate by death or divorce. Also called a premarital agreement.

Pro Se:

When a party handles her own case, i.e., represents herself, she is said to appear pro se. At each Oregon circuit court there is an office to provide pro se assistance in family law matters, but do not give pro se litigants legal advice.

Psychological Evaluation:

An interview or testing of the parents or minor child with a mental health professional, usually done in conjunction with a custody or parenting time study. Results are usually reported in written report to the court and attorneys for the parties.

Psychological Testing:

Testing done by a psychologist, usually done in conjunction with a custody or parenting time study. Testing may include tests like the Rorschach Ink Blot Test, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2 (MMPI 2), or the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI).

Public Records:

any books, papers, maps, photographs, electronic storage media, computer files, digitally stored material, or any other information regardless of form, which is made or received by employees of public agencies.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO):

An order issued by the court to divide retirement benefits. Pronounced “quadro” The preparation of a QDRO requires the parties to hire a third attorney, and one who did not represent either party in the divorce, to prepare order. The parties usually split the cost of preparing the QDRO, which is generally between $600-1,000 for each retirement account being split.

Quit Claim:

To release or relinquish legal claim, or a document relinquishing claim, as in a quit claim to the deed to the marital house.


The person against whom a legal proceeding is filed in a family law matter.

Restraining Order:

An order issued by the court to restrain or prevent a person from doing something. Frequently, issued in conjunction with domestic violence or custody disputes. May apply to dissipating assets or disrupting a child’s schedule and routine with each parent. In Oregon, there is an automatic (statutory) restraining order imposed on the petitioner when the petition is filed, and on the respondent at the time the respondent is served. This statutory restraining order restricts a party from selling off assets, hiding assets, or making exorbitant expenditures while the action is pending, and restricts a party from cancelling health or other insurance. While called a restraining order, it has nothing to do with domestic violence.


Money put on deposit with a lawyer when a lawyer is retained to do work. The retainer is placed in the lawyer’s trust account and billed against as work occurs.

Separate Property:

A property which is neither community nor marital property. Also called non-marital property


The time when a married couple stops living together. If done only by the parties’ agreement, then this living arrangement generally means that the parties are not responsible for the other spouse’s debts and obligations, except for the debts relating to the expenses of the family and the maintenance, support, and education of their minor children. If done through a formal legal proceeding, then the parties’ legal and financial lives are legally separated, and they can obtain nearly all the same relief available through a divorce such as the division of their property and debts, child custody, and child and spousal support. However, the parties’ marriage is not legally terminated, and they remain legally married. Please see “Legal Separation” above.


The act of serving the respondent with legal papers, such as the Notice of Petition for Dissolution. In Oregon, service must be made by a party over 18 and of sound mind, who is a resident of the state in which the party is being served. Service may not be made by a party or a party’s attorney.


: The resolution of disputed issues by agreement between the parties.

Settlement Conference:

Also called a judicial settlement conference. A meeting at which the parties and their lawyers attempt to settle before trial, often ordered by the court.

Sole Legal Custody:

One parent is given the unilateral right to make important decisions about a child’s welfare (religion, education, healthcare) without consulting the other parent. Typically, the parent with sole legal custody will also have physical custody of the child.

Split Custody:

Splitting multiple children between parents: Generally disfavored by the courts, as keeping siblings together is preferred. In very rare circumstances, the court considers it in the best interest of the child to separate him or her from siblings.

Spousal Support:

This is the term used in Oregon for “alimony.” Spousal support may be one or more of three types of payments made by one spouse to the other to provide support for the spouse during or after a divorce, legal separation, or annulment action. There are different requirements for the three types of spousal support because they are designed to meet three different goals. The three types of support are called transitional support, compensatory support, and maintenance support.


An agreement entered into by the divorcing spouses that settles the issues between them and is often entered into the court’s final order or judgment and decree. Most divorce cases resolve by stipulation. Parties may also stipulate to some issues and contest others.

Stock Options:

An asset or property interest that may be divisible between divorcing spouses. An option gives the employee the right to purchase company stock at a certain price (strike price). The employee hopes the company does well, raising the market price of its stock above the strike price. Once the employee exercises the option, purchases the stock at a bargain price, the employee sells the stock and realizes a profit. If the strike price is above the then current market price, the options are described as being “under water” or worthless.


A document served on a party or a witness commanding appearance at a certain time and place. A Subpoena Duces Tecum is a command to produce documents, papers, or other things listed in the subpoena.

Suit Money:

A temporary order request asking a spouse to pay money to the other to obtain or pay a lawyer.

Temporary Orders:

Orders granting relief between filing the lawsuit and the judgment. Also called Pendente Lite orders. Some can be granted on filing, such as preserving the children’s schedule and placement as it has been for the last 90 days. Some temporary orders require a hearing, such as temporary possession of real or personal property, custody, child support, and spousal support.


Any statement made under oath.

Transitional Spousal Support:

One of the three types of spousal support. Financial payments made to help support a spouse or former spouse to attain education and training necessary to permit him or her to reenter or advance in the job market.


The final hearing in court to decide the issues in the case.

Trial (Hearing) Memorandum:

A document filed with the court, setting forth each party’s theory of the case, what they want, and why they should get it. A trial memorandum must be served on the court and opposing party by noon on the business day before trial. This is usually read by the judge before the trial or hearing.

Uncontested Divorce:

A divorce in which there is no dispute as to how any of the issues will be resolved.

Uniform Support Declaration:

A declaration containing detailed financial information about each party to a child or spousal support case. The “USD” assists the court in determining an appropriate amount of support based on the economic realities of the parties.


Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. A set of uniform laws regarding jurisdiction over custody and visitation issues when dealing with parties and children from different states. All states have adopted the UCCJEA or its predecessor, but state to state variations exist. Oregon’s is at ORS 109.700 et seq.


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. A uniform law regarding child support and alimony when dealing with parties from different states. Each state is free to enact its own laws and even its own version of UIFSA. If using UIFSA, refer to the version enacted in your state.


This is the term commonly used for the time that a noncustodial parent spends with his or her child(ren). In Oregon, however, by statute, the term “visitation” actually refers to time that a non-parent, such as a grandparent, spends with child(ren), while “parenting time” refers to time that a noncustodial parent spends with his or her child(ren).


Process in divorce cases of assigning a value or worth. Value assigned by agreement of the parties who may rely on appraisers or a judge if the parties fail to agree. Judges rely on evidence offered by experts, and possibly the owner-spouse, by oral testimony, usually supported by written appraisals.

Visitation, Grandparent or Third-Party Custody:

Contact or custody rights awarded to those other than the legal parent of a child. These rights were restricted by Troxel v. Granville case (2000) in the U.S. Supreme Court, and later cases decided in state courts around the United States. In Oregon, third party visitation and custody rights are defined in ORS 109.119. In Oregon, there is a presumption that the legal parent acts in a child’s best interest.

Supervised visitation or parenting time:

Visitation or parenting time monitored by a supervisor, sometimes ordered when a parent or other person entitled to spend time with the child is accused of child abuse, domestic violence, chemical addiction, or neglect. Supervised parenting time may be a stepping stone to unsupervised time with the child. A supervisor may be a professional, such as a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, or it may be a parent or other person. Supervised time with the child may take place in the home or a professional setting.

The above definitions and discussion are intended only for informational purposes. There is never a substitute for consultation with a qualified, experienced family law attorney.