Glossary of Terms

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Glossary of Terms

Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting responsibility for another. Adoption permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents to the adoptive parents. Contemporary practice can include open adoption, thus allowing identifying information to be communicated between the biological family and the adoptive family, or closed, which seals all identifying information. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a set of processes and techniques to get disagreeing parties to come to an agreement without having to litigate. The four general types of ADR are negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration. ADR is beneficial for the following reasons. ADR reduces the caseload of the trial courts. ADR can reduce overall costs over litigation. ADR ensures confidentiality in any settlement agreement. ADR provides greater control over the outcome versus a decision by judge or jury. ADR provides for selecting those individuals who will decide the dispute. 

Alimony is not legally recognized in the state of Texas. Courts have and do allow for circumstances that warrant spousal maintenance, providing temporary financial support to one spouse from another, after marital separation or divorce. 

An annulment is a legal process for declaring a marriage null and void. 

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment or neglect of children. In Texas, cases of child abuse or neglect should be referred to any local office of Child Protective Services (CPS). 

Child custody is the term used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and their children, such as the right of the parent to make decisions for the child and the parent’s duty to care for the child. Custodial responsibility, geographic residence, and visitation are custody issues that typically arise during divorce proceedings when children may be involved. 

Child support is often an arranged part of divorce whereby one parent makes regular financial payments to the other for the care and support of the children from their marriage, prior to a divorce. 

Collaborative law is a method to achieve a divorce through agreement and negotiated settlement of the divorce issues. In a collaborative divorce, the principles negotiate an agreed resolution with the assistance of attorneys that are trained in the collaborative divorce process. If this process is not successful, the lawyers and any other professionals involved in the process are disqualified from representing the parties in any contested legal proceeding. However, many attorneys that practice collaborative law claim it can be more cost-effective than other divorce methods, such as litigation. 

Common-law marriage is a form of marriage that is legally recognized in Texas. Common-law marriage can be legally binding even though a formal marriage ceremony or civil marriage contract has not been entered into by the parties. Certain conditions must be met to satisfy the statutory requirements for common-law marriage. For questions regarding a common-law marriage, you should seek a legal professional’s advice. 

Community property includes most property acquired during a marriage, except for gifts or inheritances. Community property is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce. Texas is a community property state. 

Divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage terminating the existing relationship or union. The legal process for divorce may involve issues of child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division. In Texas, a divorce requires the sanction of a court in a legal process. 

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name the person(s) to make medical, financial, and end-of-life decisions for you should you be unable to do so yourself. 

The executor (executrix) is the person named by the testator to carry out the directions of a person’s will. 

Any threat of violence or act of violence against another member of a family or the household is considered family violence or domestic violence. Family violence takes many forms, some of which include assault, threats of emotional or physical abuse, intimidation, stalking, and depriving you of economic resources. 

A legal guardian is a person with the legal authority and duty to care for the personal and property interests of another person. Typically, a guardian is appointed to care for the ward because they are incapable of caring for their own interests. Courts generally have the power to appoint a guardian for individuals in need of special protection. 

Mediation – Divorce mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation. During a mediation session, a mediator, with expertise in dispute resolution, facilitates the discussion between the parties. The mediator’s role is to assist communication, provide information, and make suggestions to help solve the differences. At the end of a successful mediation, the separating parties often negotiation an equitable divorce agreement that can be submitted to the court. 

A mediated settlement agreement (MSA) is a binding contract on the parties, if the agreement provides it is not subject to revocation, and it is signed by the parties and signed by the parties’ attorneys if any are present when the MSA is signed. 

A mediator is an independent third party, usually, an attorney, who conducts the mediation, evaluates the disputes between the parties, and attempts to find a middle ground to achieve an amicable solution and settle the case without the need for litigation.  

A medical directive, also known as a living will describe the type of medical treatment you wish to have if you were unable to make and communicate these decisions on your own. 

A Motion for Enforcement of Child Support is a petition to the court to force the obligor to comply with the terms of a previous court order for child support.

Obligor: The individual who owes another person a debt or duty. 

A parenting plan or custody agreement is established at the time of a divorce and addresses topics such as parenting time (physical custody), decision making (legal custody), transportation and exchanges, annual vacations and school breaks, child
support, dispute resolution, etc. The parenting plan allows parents to avoid future conflicts due to a lack of guidelines in dealing with responsibilities related to the children. 

Paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a man and a child, usually based on a paternity test or biological comparison of genetic traits.

A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage. The content of a prenuptial agreement generally includes provisions for the division of property and spousal support in the event of a divorce or termination of a marriage. 

A primary conservator is a party (usually one of the parents) who is granted the right to determine where the child will live and has responsibility for and provides day-to-day care for the child.

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. This process involves resolving all claims and distributing the person’s property according to their will. 

A postnuptial agreement is similar to prenuptial agreements, however, they are entered into after a couple is married. 

A Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, also known as a SAPCR, is a petition filed with a family court seeking an order regarding custody, visitation, child support, and/or medical support for a minor child. 

SHEG Report – A social, health, educational, and genetic history (SHEG) report is required prior to adoption. Once the adoptee becomes an adult, he or she may view a report summary that is edited to protect the confidentiality of birth parents and their families. The TDFPS is to keep the report for 99 years. Aside from this, records of the adoption are sealed, though the adoptive parents do receive a copy of the child’s health history. 

Spoliation is defined as the act of losing, altering or destroying evidence.

A testator is a person who has executed a last will and testament. 

A trust is a legal document that can assist in the preservation of your assets, can minimize the amount of estate taxes owed, and can avoid probate. 

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) addresses jurisdiction over a child custody matter and keeps the jurisdiction in one state. The intent of the UCCJEA is to discourage the unauthorized removal of a child, by a non-custodial parent, to another state, where they seek a custody modification and expect a more favorable outcome. 


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Li Family Law Group

5601 Democracy Drive, Suite 140
Plano, Texas 75024