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Definition of Terms

adopt - To take on the legal relationship of parent to another person's child.

adoption - A court procedure by which an adult becomes the legal parent of someone who is not his or her biological child. Adoption creates a parent-child relationship recognized for all legal purposes -- including child support obligations, inheritance rights and custody.

adoptive parent - A person who completes all the requirements to legally adopt a child who is not his or her biological child. An adoptive parent has all the responsibilities of a biological parent.

child custody - The legal authority to make decisions affecting a child's interests and the responsibility of taking care of the child. The most common arrangement is for one parent to have custody (physical and legal) while the other parent has a right of visitation. The most uncommon arrangement is for the parents to share both legal and physical custody.

child support - Financial support paid by a parent to help support a child or children of whom they do not have custody. Child support can be entered into voluntarily or ordered by a court depending on each State’s laws. Support can come in different forms. The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 made it a Federal crime to willfully fail to pay support for a child living in another State. The law was strengthened in 1998. The "Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998", added new categories of felonies with penalties of up to two years in prison for more blatant child support evaders. A major consideration in screening a case for possible Federal prosecution is whether all reasonably available civil and state criminal remedies have been pursued. The Child Support Enforcement agency in each state will try to help establish a child support order.

dissolution - A term used instead of divorce.

divorce - to dissolve the marriage bond between or simply to legally terminate the marriage. States require a spouse to identify a legal reason for requesting a divorce when that spouse files the divorce papers with the court. These reasons are referred to as grounds for a divorce. In its most basic form divorce is about separation. It is important to note that a civil divorce is not sufficient to dissolve a jewish or roman catholic marriage.

divorce agreement - The agreement, which may also be called a settlement agreement, made by a divorcing couple involves the division of property, custody and visitation of the children, alimony or child support. The agreement must be put in writing, signed by the couple, and accepted by the court.

head of household - Similar to the term householder. Under federal income tax law, you are eligible for favorable tax treatment as the head of household only if you are unmarried and you manage a household which is the principal residence of dependent children or other dependent relatives.

family court - A separate court, or more likely a separate division of the regular state trial court, that considers only cases involving divorce (dissolution of marriage), child custody and support, guardianship, adoption, and other cases having to do with family-related issues, including the issuance of restraining orders in domestic violence cases.

joint custody - Custody of a child shared by divorced or separated parents who alternate physical custody of and share in decisions regarding the child.

legal custody - The right and obligation to make decisions about a child's upbringing, including medical care and schooling.

marriage - (three definitions)A contract that results in the man and woman living with each other and supporting each other within the limits of what has been laid down for them in terms of rights and obligations. A sexually exclusive and equitable love relationship entered into voluntarily by two adults, solemnized by vows and recognized by themselves and others as the highest romantic achievement possible between two people. Webster's definition is that it is the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family.

mediation - Nonbinding intervention between parties to promote resolution of a grievance, reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.

open adoption - An open adoption as a form of adoption in which the birth family and the adopted child enjoy an ongoing, in-person relationship.

physical custody - Custody that includes sharing a residence with a child

shared custody - Similar to "joint custody"

sole custody - Custody of a child awarded to only one person and typically to a parent.

temporary custody - Custody awarded until a final judgment in a matter (as a divorce) is made


For other family law, custody, or support terms please search Answer.com.

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