Summary of Common Family Law Terms – Over the last few months I have written about the legal concepts related to marriage and attempted to break these concepts into bite-size pieces over a series of blogs.
We’ve covered some serious ground in that time – around 15 or so blogs – and my hope is you have learned quite a bit along the way. With that said, I’d like to take a step back to reflect on some important legal terms and phrases that have popped up along the way. Some have been discussed in broader detail in my blogs, others were mentioned in passing or not at all.
Here is a Top 20 list of terms related to the legal concept of marriage:
Ceremonial marriage – A formal marriage that complies with the statutory requirements listed in the Texas Family Code for obtaining a marriage license and participating in a marriage ceremony.
Common-law – Also known as “informal marriage.” A marriage recognized by Texas law between two people who agree to be married and live together as spouses, but who have not obtained a marriage license and participated in a marriage ceremony.
Divorce – The legal end of a marriage. Divorces can be contested in court, or non-contested.
Estate – All that a person or entity owns. Can include real or personal property.
Family Law – A body of law that deals with domestic-related issues including marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody and support, and paternity. Can also include wills and estates, contracts, child abuse, finance and anything that is directly or indirectly related to families.
Gestational agreement – A contract between two intended parents and a third party (a gestational mother) who is willing to give birth to a child. Unlike a surrogate who provides her own eggs and is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the intended father, a gestational mother has no genetic connection with the child. The child is conceived from the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or a donor.
Fiduciary – A person who holds legal or ethical relationships of trust with another person or group of people. Spouses have a fiduciary responsibility to one another, and their children.
Holding out – A term to describe a couple who are in a common-law marriage. After agreeing to be married, the parties must make it known to others through their conduct and actions that they are married. In other words, there is no such thing as a secret informal marriage.
Intended Parents – Two people who seek out someone else (known as a surrogate or gestational mother) when pregnancy is medically impossible or presents a danger to the mother or child. The intended parents are to be considered the legal parents of the child upon birth.
Judgement – A court’s final decision.
Liability – A legal term referring to a person’s legal responsibility to another person (example, a spouse or child) or society as a whole. Liability is enforceable on a civil basis and through criminal punishment.
Marriage license – A document issued by the state that authorizes a couple to get married. Individuals who want to enter into a ceremonial marriage must obtain this from the county clerk.
Meretricious relationship – The “un-marriage.” A relationship between two people that does not meet the requirements of a ceremonial marriage, common-law marriage, or putative marriage. In a meretricious relationship, neither person has a good-faith belief that he or she is entering into a marriage relationship.
Maternity and Paternity testing – Maternity tests involve the DNA testing of a woman to determine if that person is the biological mother. Paternity tests involve the same testing for the biological father.
Premarital agreement – An agreement that creates clearly-defined rights and obligations – much like a contract – for couples who are about to get married. Premarital agreements are not mandatory.
Probate – A legal process that resolves claims and distribution of a deceased person’s property in a will.
Putative marriage – A marriage entered into in good faith by one person – referred to as the innocent spouse – but that is invalid because of a legal impediment such as an undissolved earlier marriage.
Removal of disabilities – A minor can petition the court to have their disabilities of minority – restrictions on a child’s legal capacity – removed before turning 18, but must meet certain requirements.
Tort – A civil wrong inflicted by one person (example, a spouse) on another that unfairly results in loss or injury. Examples of torts include assault, emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
Tortfeasor – Refers to the person who commits a tort (wrongdoing). A tortfeasor is held legally liable for committing a tort against another person.
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. Summary of Common Family Law Terms