Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. IV)
It’s that time again where we take a timeout from my open-ended series of family law blogs. This allows us to reflect on several important legal terms and concepts we’ve discussed over the last few months.
I do this because, well, it’s not like this is everyday language, folks. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these terms before, but others are quite complex and not as common. Even after nearly two decades in this profession, even I have to pull out the old law book once in a while.
Family Law Terms
Below is Volume IV of my summary of common family law terms.
The previous three are here.
Between those previous three vocabulary blogs, and the 20 terms I have highlighted below, you should have a solid foundation as we move deeper into more complex conversations.
A judgement, decree, or other court order that provides for the care, control and maintenance of a child. A court will typically award custody following a divorce proceeding. A child-custody determination can be a permanent, temporary, original or modified court order.
A suit brought before the court to determine the parties’ marital status and division of property. Either spouse can file a dissolution suit.
Short for Suit Affecting The Parent-Child Relationship. This suit must be filed separately from a dissolution suit since its primary function is to determine the parties’ rights and responsibilities to a child following a divorce or separation.
Temporary restraining order/injunction
This is a short-term court order that forbids a party from engaging in a particular action against someone else. These orders can be requested for a variety of reasons when it comes to dissolution suits or SAPCRs.
Anyone who has a justifiable interest in a family law case, whether that be due to monetary reasons or because they have a relationship with a party in the case. Examples of intervenors include a former parent of a child, a guardian, a government entity or a person with court-ordered visitation rights to a child.
A conservator is a person appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of a child (Managing/Possessory). This person makes decisions on behalf of the child. The following people can seek appointment as a conservator: parent, competent adult, The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, a licensed child-placing agency.
This family law suit establishes exactly who the court will name as a conservator. It determines certain rights and duties for that conservator, including who will have legal custody, physical custody and visitation.
Best interest of the child
This is a standard the court uses in family law cases to make decisions that have direct impact on a child. This can include decisions on issues of adoption, child custody, conservatorship, possession, and access. The court’s focus is not on who has a better claim to the child, but instead on who can better serve the child’s interests.
A court will delve deep into each party’s ability to properly act as a parent to the child. Factors that are addressed include recent past conduct, drug/alcohol abuse and sexual conduct. A court cannot consider marital status, gender, race or religion for each party’s fitness.
A court will take into consideration the child’s wishes – includes which parent they prefer to be the primary caregiver – when looking out for the best interests of a child.
Rights of Access
In a conservatorship suit, this is a person who has been deemed by the court to have the ability to approach, communicate with and visit a child. They cannot take possession or control of the child.
Rights of Possession
A person with right to possession of a child can exercise possession and control of the child, to the exclusion of all other persons.
Short for Standard Possession Order. This is what the court issues to detail out the terms of possession and access. This covers everything from Thursday evenings during the school year to normal weekends and holidays or vacations.
International Child Abduction
Often perpetrated by parents who feel as though they should have equal possession and access rights. The court must account for this possibility, especially if there is a reasonable expectation it could happen.
An ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. It is paid from one parent to the other to help care for the child. To determine the structure of these payments, an order is obtained from the court requiring one or both parents to pay for a child’s financial and medical support.
Suits for Child Support
See definition above. Can be filed as an independent suit or together with another suit such as one for dissolution, conservatorship, or parentage.
Current Child Support
This is an obligation imposed on a parent to support the child for a period of time following entry of a final judgement.
Medical Child Support
In a suit for child support, the court may be required to award medical support for a child, which is a lump-sum payment or series of periodic payments made to cover the child’s medical expenses. Those expenses can also include health insurance coverage. Medical child support must be awarded if periodic payments of current child support are ordered.
Retroactive Child Support
These are child support payments awarded for past care of a child. In other words, it’s monies owed to the supporting parent, as well as funds owed to the supporting parent to discharge the nonsupporting parent’s proportionate duty of financial support to the child.
Temporary Child Support
The court can award temporary child support for safety and welfare purposes. It can last until the court enters a final judgement in a suit for child support.
Please keep this list handy for your easy reference. If you would like us to discuss a particular family law topic in these blogs, please contact our Nelson Law Group, PC office to let us know. We will be glad to help you.