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Divorce Terms You Should Know

As you go through the divorce process, it is likely you will encounter some legal jargon with which you are not familiar. With this in mind, we’ve collected a list of some divorce-related terms you should learn so you can stay informed and plugged in throughout your case.

Take a look below.

  • Annulment: The ending to a marriage that was invalid in the eyes of the law. The effect is that the marriage never legally occurred.
  • Contempt of court: A purposeful failure to comply with court orders, judgments or divorce decrees, punishable by fines or jail time.
  • Dissolution: The dissolution of marriage is the act of terminating the marriage.
  • Equitable distribution: Property is to be divided equitably in a divorce. “Equitable” here is a synonym for “fair,” not “equal.” A fair arrangement for property division may (and likely will) not result in a 50/50 split of assets and wealth.
  • Marital property: Property acquired by spouses during the marriage.
  • Petitioner: In a divorce case, the petitioner is the party who filed for the divorce.
  • Relief: Relief is what a party in the divorce asks the court to do. This may include dissolving the marriage, awarding support, enforcing court orders, dividing property, dismissing complaints, etc.
  • Separate property: Property acquired by spouses before the marriage, or property that belongs to only one spouse and does not qualify as marital property.
  • Subpoenas: Documents served to parties or witnesses who must appear in court to testify in the divorce. A failure to comply with a subpoena can result in the party being held in contempt of court.
  • Summons: A written notification of legal action commencing, requiring a response from the recipient within a certain amount of time.

For more information about various common divorce terms, contact an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties.Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.


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