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What Are Some of the Most Important Divorce Terms To Know?

Anyone who is going through the divorce process or may be doing so in the future has a lot on their mind and on their plate already. Throw in a bunch of confusing terminology that you're not familiar with, and things can get that much more daunting. Here, we'll discuss some of the most common divorce terms in a hopefully easy and straightforward fashion, so you can clear up any lingering questions or uncertainties.

For instance, there tends to be confusion around alimony versus child support. To begin with, they are separate and are not different words for the same thing. Child support, is as you may guess, support provided from one spouse to another specifically for the costs related to the child's care.

Alimony, however, is support one spouse is required to provide to the other whether or not there are children, and may continue past when the children are no longer minors. A spouse may be required to provide both alimony and child support, or only one or the other, depending on the specific case.

Another area of confusion that's worth defining are some of the actual words used in conjunction with divorce, i.e., absolute divorce, uncontested divorce, limited divorce, and no fault divorce:

  • An absolute divorce is the final legal conclusion of the divorce process, with all issues resolved, and both parties now being able to legally marry somebody else.

  • An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree to proceed with the divorce with no issues that the court must decide or rule upon.

  • A limited divorce has set certain legal decrees for a separated couple in terms of responsibilities such as child support or custody, but the divorce process has not been finalized and the marriage is not legally over.

  • A no fault divorce is when there are no specific grounds for divorce such as adultery or abuse, and instead, the parties have decided not to reconcile and/or have already been separated for a mandated period of time, if applicable.

Of course, there are many other terms to consider beyond the above, but this should help as a beginner's guide to divorce terminology. And while we hope that the above discussion was useful for you as you're facing the prospect of divorce, when the time actually does come, it's always recommended that you receive real legal advice or counsel from an experienced professional in your local area. He or she will be able to guide you through the process, while helping you understand your state's specific regulations or requirements, and will be able to help you work towards a successful outcome.

Brandon A. Bernstein is an experienced divorce lawyer in Maryland. He helps clients with all family law issues, including divorce, prenuptial and separation agreements, child support and custody, and more. Mr. Bernstein was named as a Super Lawyers Rising Stars in Maryland for 4 consecutive years. His practice, the Law Offices of Brandon Bernstein, is based in Bethesda, and can be visited online at

Visit his guide to see more common divorce terms defined. It's a standalone divorce term glossary which should help anyone learn more about the process.

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