Some clients prepare for divorce either formally or informally.  Either they know about the process and terminology from research that they have done or they have learned vicariously from the experiences of others.  However, many clients have done neither and this glossary is intended to assist and educate potential clients to help them make important decisions that will impact their future lives and the future lives of their children.  The following terms are not meant to be all inclusive; however, they are some of the more important considerations as you take part in the mediation process.

Agreement (Separation Agreement): This includes the parties’ assets and liabilities and how they wish to deal with them.  Once signed by a notary, this Agreement is a legal document. The parties are bound to the term and conditions contained therein. Health insurance coverage of a spouse and filing joint tax returns can continue under a legal separation but not a divorce decree.

Child Support:  An amount of money that one parent provides to the other for child support based on a formula found in the Child Support Standards Act.  The parties can deviate from the calculations during mediation.  We do the calculations for you.

Custodial and Non-custodial Parent:  The Custodial parent is the parent that the children spends more than fifty (50) per cent of their physical time with.  The non-custodial parent is the parent who has visiting privileges with the children away from the custodial parent.

Distributive Award:  Section 1041 of the Internal Revenue Code mandates that any transfer of property from one spouse to another is tax free.  Hence, a monetary payment from one spouse to another for that person’s share of equity in the marital residence is tax free.

Divorce Decree:  A legal Separation Agreement that is reviewed and signed by a judge, and filed in a county clerk’s office.

Equitable Distribution:   This refers to the equity or monetary value that one party has in property and goods acquired during the term of the marriage.  Retirement and pensions are treated separately using what is known as the Majauskas formula.  This refers to a New York State court decision that is the standard for the division of all types of retirement plans.

Joint Custody:  There are two types of joint custody of children: joint legal custody and joint physical custody.  Joint legal custody means that the parents agree to consult with each other regarding major decisions that affect their children, such as education, day care, major medical or dental concerns, etc.  Joint physical custody means that the children will spend an equal amount of physical time with each parent.

Maintenance or Spousal Support:  A monetary settlement that one spouse provides for the other based on a number of factors, such as the age and health of the parties, the need for one party to incur education or training expenses, and the availability and cost of medical insurance to cite only a few.  Formulas have been enacted by the New York State Legislature to determine the amount and duration.   The parties can deviate from the calculations during mediation.  We do the calculations for you.

529 Plan:  A tax free college savings plan for children.

These are some of the more important terms and definitions that will give you a better understanding of separation/divorce.  Depending on the circumstances, most of these terms are discussed and expanded upon during mediation.  The nature of mediation encourages informal discussions.  You should always feel comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification of anything you do not understand.  Our goal is to find solutions that work for you.

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More questions? Ask Jerry about helping you with your divorce.