Commonly Used Terminology in Family Law Cases

When dealing with the court system regarding your divorce, child custody, or parenting schedule, there might be quite a few words you may not know. For this reason, we’ve compiled a glossary of terms you should be aware of:

Arbitration: Arbitration is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Arbitration does not take place in court or before a Judge, but it has basic similarities to a judicial setting. Instead of arguing issues to a Judge, however, in Arbitration the issues are submitted to a neutral third party, who makes a final decision. In divorce Arbitration, the third party is frequently a lawyer or a retired Judge. You, your spouse and your lawyers choose the Arbitrator.

Child Custody: Child custody is the care and control of a child. In Florida, if a divorcing couple can not agree on child custody, they may participate in a custody evaluation by a neutral expert who is typically court-ordered or chosen by the parties’ counsel. There are various ways child custody can be molded into to meet the needs of the children or parents.

Child Custody Evaluation: If you are in the process of getting a divorce and you are unable to agree on child custody, the Judge may appoint a custody evaluator to do a custody evaluation. During the child custody evaluation, you and your spouse will meet with an evaluator who will make a recommendation based on applying your particular situation to the child custody statutes. The child custody evaluator then submits a report to the Judge with recommendations for child custody and visitation. The child custody evaluator is typically a licensed forensic psychologist who is court-ordered or privately hired by the parties’ counsel.

Court involved individual therapy: In addition to assessment and evaluation services, our psychologists also provide treatment to individuals involved in the court system. This includes Palm Beach County court-ordered therapy. Forensic Psychologists are familiar with the special circumstances of working with forensic cases, including the need to work closely with court officials, attorneys and potentially testify in court as a fact witness.

Court Order: Orders from the Court resolve conflicts presented by the parties. A restraining order is one kind of court order. The court does not interfere with people¹s lives unless they ask by bringing a motion for an order.

Cross-Examination Preparation: Consultation with the attorney about the forensic mental health evaluation, including review of the quality of the forensic mental health evaluation, and aiding the counsel in preparing for cross examination of the evaluator, which is typically called case analysis and evaluation by lawyers and litigation support, assessment and peer review by mental health consultants.

Dissolution or Dissolution of Marriage: Dissolution is the current term for divorce.

Forensic Psychologist: A forensic psychologist is a licensed psychologist who’s doctoral education had a focus in forensics. Forensic psychology is the intersection between psychology and the justice system. It involves understanding criminal law in the relevant jurisdictions in order to be able to interact appropriately with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. An important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court as an expert witness, reformulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom, providing information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood. Additional roles this professional may assume include: child custody evaluator or social investigator, rebuttal witness, work product reviewer, court-involved therapist, court-ordered therapist, psychological evaluator, parental coordinator.

Joint Legal Custody: Joint legal custody means that each divorced parent has equal rights to participate in major decisions about their children’s upbringing: religion, healthcare, after-school activities and other important issues that arise as the children mature. In Florida, if either parent requests joint legal custody, joint legal custody is granted unless the other parent can show that joint legal custody would not be in the child’s best interests.

Litigation: Litigation is a method of pursuing a legal action in court. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an option for divorcing couples who do not want to bring their marriage dissolution process into the court system.

Marital Property: The property that a person gains, earns or purchases while married.

Mediation: Divorce Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It differs from divorce litigation in that decisions about custody and visitation, spousal and child support and property division are agreed to between the spouses with the assistance of a Mediator. Unlike an Arbitrator in Arbitration, the Mediator is not a decision maker. In fact, Mediation can be thought of as a form of assisted negotiation.

Modification: When circumstances change that affect child support, spousal support, child custody and other matters, a modification to the divorce decree may be warranted. Post-dissolution modifications can be made by agreement or by Court order. Property division is final, however, and not subject to modification (except by agreement).

Noncustodial parent: A noncustodial parent is not the primary custodian of the children. In most situations, a noncustodial parent has visitation rights and pays child support.

Parental alienation / Restrictive gatekeeping: In high conflict divorces or court-involved families, a parent may display behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. Parental alienation or restrictive gatekeeping deprive children of their right to be loved by both of their parents.

Parental Coordination: The purpose of parenting coordination is to provide a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process whereby a parenting coordinator assists the parents in creating or implementing a parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of disputes between the parents by providing education, making recommendations, and, with the prior approval of the parents and the court, making limited decisions within the scope of the court’s order of referral.

Parenting Plan: A parenting plan details how divorcing parents will co-parent their children. In Florida, parties involved in divorce litigation can stipulate to a parenting plan instead of subjecting themselves to a plan determined by a judge. Parenting plans can also be edited by mediation or by the assistance of a judge.

Rebuttal Witness Testimony: A rebuttal witness is a witness used to counter the information or testimony given by another witness in a running court case. Rebuttal witnesses are often court-ordered or subpoenaed to provide better information regarding an involved party in the case and help the jury reach a final decision. This is typically done by a forensic psychologist in cases such as child custody or parental coordination.

Reunification TherapyParental reunification therapy: Widely used in high conflict divorce cases in which the child is being reunified with an absent parent or caregiver. This therapy is utilized to improve or re-establish a healthy caregiver/parent-child relationship in a safe and controlled environment. Please see Therapeutic Supervised Visitations.

Therapeutic Supervised Visitation (and regular Supervised Visitation): Therapeutic supervised visitation is similar to a traditional monitored visit between a non-custodial parent and child, except that mental health professional is involved in supervising and guiding the visit between the parent and child. The therapist interacts with the family prior to, during and after the visit to help re-establish and restore the parent-child relationship. The therapist also makes sure that the guidelines set by the Court or referral agency are followed.

Trial/Case Consultant: This typically a role a forensic psychologist assumes. Being a consultant for an attorney involves many blended roles such as assisting the attorney in preparing for cross-examination, testifying to provide general knowledge or advice, as well as staying privileged in a case to provide consultation for the attorney alone.

Visitation (Parenting Time): Unless it is deemed not in the best interest of the child, a parent who does not have custody of his or her child will be granted parenting time. Parenting time is included in the Parenting Plan.

Date: November 30th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized | By: | Comment: 1

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