The following non-exhaustive glossary contains terms and terminology that often arise in the divorce and divorce mediation context in New York state.
Best Interests of the Child
This concept is the touchstone of legal decisions relating to a child.
CSSA (Child Support Standards Act)
This New York State law sets up the basic framework with which presumptive child support calculations are made. Divorcing parents can vary from the basic framework for good cause. The CSSA is codified at Domestic Relations Law (DRL) sec. 240 and Family Court Act (FCA) s. 413.
Custody: Legal Custody
This concept concerns decision making about the children. The parent with legal custody makes the important decisions for the child. Very commonly parents share joint legal custody over their children. That is, each parent after divorce -just as before the divorce- has a say in the important matters concerning the child’s upbringing. In a divorce mediation context, parents will define a “parenting plan” that describes the parents’ roles with respect to decision-making and time with the child.
Custody: Physical Custody
Physical custody relates to where the children live. The parent with primary physical custody has the children more than 50% of the time. The issue is closely related to child support as the “non-custodial parent” (generally speaking the parent with physical custody of the child less than 50% of the time) can be required to pay child support to the “custodial parent”. In a divorce mediation context, parents will define a “parenting plan” that describes the parents’ roles with respect to decision-making and time with the child.
A divorce is the final and legal dissolution of a marriage.
This New York State law defines such socio-legal concepts as marriage, divorce and separation, and establishes procedures for them.
The principle guiding the division of marital property upon divorce is equitable, or fair, distribution. Equitable does not mean “equal” necessarily. More than a dozen factors written into the DRL impact whether the distribution of marital property is equitable.
This New York State law establishes and defines the Family Court and its procedures. The New York State Family Courts have jurisdiction over such issues as abuse and neglect, child support and custody, and paternity.
Grounds for Divorce
Under the DRL, divorce results from the satisfaction of particular grounds, or a reason for the divorce. Traditionally in New York there were six grounds: 1) cruel and inhuman treatment, 2) abandonment, 3) imprisonment, 4) adultery, 5) living apart pursuant to a separation judgment or decree, and 6) living apart pursuant to a separation agreement. A seventh, New York’s version of “no fault” divorce, was added to the list in 2010.
An asset or liability acquired during the marriage. Marital property belongs to each spouse jointly and is divided equitably at the time of divorce. Common forms of marital property are bank accounts, credit cards, homes, mortgages, cars, and car loans. They also may include pensions and 401-K plans, business interests, academic degrees, and professional licenses.
Marriage is the legally-recognized union of two humans able to make contracts. Since July 2011, people of the same gender may marry (or divorce) in New York state. Laws pertaining to the rights or responsibilities of a “husband” or “wife” must be construed in a gender-neutral fashion.
As of October 2010, New York become the last state in the nation to permit what is commonly known as “no-fault” divorce. As a consequence, in New York under the DRL one party may cite that “the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath” as a grounds for divorce.
QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order)
A QDRO (pronounced “cuadro”) is a legal document that explains to the administrator of a pension plan how to provide a portion of an employee’s pension to the employee’s former spouse after divorce.
In a divorce mediation context, parents will define a “parenting plan” that describes the parents’ roles with respect to decision-making and time with the child.
Separation (Legal Separation)
A separation is a legal situation in which two spouses are no longer sharing “bed and board”, but remain married. Most commonly separated couples live pursuant to a legal document known as a “separation agreement” (living pursuant to such an arrangement is one of the commonly used legal grounds for divorce in New York) that establishes a framework for the equitable division of property, child and marital support, and the care of children.
Support: Child Support
Child support is a monetary sum paid from one parent to another for the support of the child. Parents are obligated to care for their children in New York, including by providing them with financial support. In New York, the CSSA provides a basic framework to determine what support a non-custodial parent is obligated to provide to a custodial parent for the support of their child.
Support: Spousal Support (aka maintenance or alimony)
Spousal support (also sometimes referred to as maintenance or alimony) is a monetary amount provided from one spouse to another. Such support generally is paid by the “monied” spouse to the relatively “non-monied” spouse after consideration of a set of factors described in DRL s. 236(B).
Child “visitation” is shorthand for describing how much time a parent will spend with the child and when. Commonly a “non-custodial” parent is described as having certain “rights” to visitation with his or her child. In a divorce mediation context, parents will define a “parenting plan” that describes the parents’ roles with respect to decision-making and time with the child.