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Top 7 Legal Terms To Know & Understand During Divorce

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or you’ve already been served with your spouse’s petition, there are legal terms you should know in order to properly communicate your needs and understand what your spouse is asking for. Although your divorce attorney will guide you during the settlement negotiations, understanding the terminology involved will make you a more active participant in creating your new future.


Alimony is financial support paid to a spouse as part of the divorce process. In Connecticut, temporary alimony, known as “pendente lite,” is sometimes awarded during the settlement proceedings. Once the divorce is finalized, a judge can order temporary or permanent alimony for a set amount of time.

Child Custody

Child custody is the legal arrangement for the care of children from the marriage. It indicates which parent a child will live with (if not both) and how decisions about them will be made. There are two types of custody:


  • Legal custody: refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about a child’s upbringing, such as the medical care they receive, where they go to school, and what religious faith they are brought up in.
  • Physical custody: addresses where a child will live on a regular basis


Essentially, legal custody refers to having the power to make decisions about how a child should be raised. Physical custody relates to where a child lives, when. Unless there is a reason to decide otherwise, Connecticut courts generally prefer to award joint legal custody to both parents.

Child Support

Parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially, even if they separate or divorce. Child support is a series of payments that one parent pays the other to cover the costs of caring for the children. In Connecticut the court will combine the net weekly incomes of both parents, look at the number of children requiring support, and consult the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations to arrive at a basic child support figure.

Equitable Distribution

Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property and debt are divided in an equitable, or fair, manner. It is important to note that this is not the same thing as a 50-50 split.

Marital Property

Marital property consists of the assets that are acquired during a marriage and subject to equitable distribution when divorce occurs. This property includes but is not limited to the marital home, real estate, businesses, bank and investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

Separate Property

Separate property belongs to only one spouse. It is distinguished from marital property in that it was acquired before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance. Provided that separate property does not become commingled with marital assets, it is not generally subject to distribution in a divorce.


Visitation, which is also known as “parenting time”, addresses the rights of a non-custodial parent to spend time with their children. The amount of visitation ordered will vary according to factors such as geographical distance between the parents, but courts will aim for an arrangement that allows the non-custodial parent to spend as much time with their children as possible.

These are some of the most common, and therefore important, terms that you will encounter during your divorce. At Freed Marcroft we give you the information and support you need to actively make informed decisions about what you need and deserve to set yourself up for a strong and happy future. To speak to a team member today, START HERE.