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The Complete California Divorce Glossary

Getting a divorce is a complicated legal process that can leave people feeling confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. In order to get through a divorce as smoothly as possible, it’s essential to be a prepared as possible. To help better understand the process, we define and explain the complex legal jargon that you are likely to encounter throughout the process.


Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution method where a person that isn’t involved in the case looks at the evidence, hears arguments from both sides, and makes a decision on specific divorce issues.


Arrears is a term to describe a parent that is past due with their child support payments.

Community Property

Community property is everything a married couple or registered domestic partners own together. This may include money or benefits like pensions and stock options that either spouse earned while married or anything that either spouse purchased with money earned during the marriage.

Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is a court’s final decision and judgment order that officially makes the divorce final. The decree may be “interlocutory,” which means it’s not the final decision, or it can be considered “final,” which means that all issues in the case have been resolved.


A deposition is when someone answers questions through written or oral testimony under oath in front of an authorized third person. The dialogue created during the deposition can be used as a record of evidence during the divorce proceedings or to get testimony from a witness that does not live nearby. The process takes place outside of the courtroom and helps attorneys prepare their court papers.


Dissolution means the marriage is ended according to the judge’s decision, or essentially just another way of saying the divorce is final.


Interrogatories are written questions for discovery forms in a divorce. One party will send their interrogatory to the other to gain information about matters like finances, habits, and child custody. The other party will then need to answer the questions under oath.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is a court order that allows both parents to have legal and physical custody of a child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the parent’s right and responsibility to make important decisions about their child’s health, education and well being. Legal custody can either be shared jointly by both parents or solely by one parent.


Mediation is another form of alternative dispute resolution. It is a process in which a neutral third person helps couples communicate with each other so they can reach an agreement on divorce issues they disagree on.

Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a detailed custody and visitation agreement that states when the child will be with each parent, as well as how any decisions will be made about the child’s upbringing. The plan can be developed by the parents, through a mediator, or with the help of a San Bernadino family law attorney, or a judge after a trial or hearing.


Perjury is when a spouse lies or makes a false statement while under oath.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is where the children live, which parent takes care of them, and how much time the children spend with each parent. Physical custody can be granted to both parents through joint physical custody, or it can be the duty of one parent through sole physical custody.

Need Help With Your Divorce?

Going through the divorce process isn’t easy, even when you have a basic understanding of the process. The San Bernadino divorce lawyers at Law Office of Michael R. Young are always here to assist those needing guidance with their divorce. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our family law firm today if you have any questions about your divorce.

Call (909) 315-4588 now to set up a consultation for your case!