Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. V)
Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. V)

Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. V)

Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. V)Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. V)

We have discussed a great deal of family law terms over the last few months. Now it is time to take a brief timeout to look back on a some of the more noteworthy concepts

I do this periodically because it’s not like this is everyday language. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these terms before, but others are quite complex and not as common. Even after nearly two decades in this profession, even I have to pull out a law book once in a while.

Below is Volume V of my summary of common family law terms.

The previous four are here.

January 2016:

May 2016:

August 2016:

October 2016:

Between those previous four vocabulary blogs, and the 20 terms I have highlighted below, you should have a solid foundation as we move deeper into more complex conversations.

Parentage Suit

This suit is used to establish the existence of a parent-child relationship. It promotes equal treatment of the children of married and unmarried parents and establishes rights and responsibilities for each parent. A parentage suit is also necessary before things like custody or child support can be ordered.

Presumed Father

A man who is recognized as the father of a child. This is typically the case if he is married to the mother and the child is born during the marriage, he married the mother before the birth of the child, or he lives in the same household as the child.

Suit to Adjudicate Parentage

This type of suit can prove that a man who is not presumed, acknowledged, or previously adjudicated is the father of a child or to prove he is not the child’s father. In these suits, the only question is whether the man is the child’s biological father.

Gestational Agreement

A contract between two intended parents and a third party (a gestational mother) who is willing to give birth to a child. A gestational mother has no genetic connection with the child. These agreements can be used to determine a father-child relationship.


The act of spouses legally gaining possession and access to a child who does not have a mother and father of their own.

Child-Placement Agency

A child welfare agency that places children in foster homes for temporary care or in prospective homes for permanent adoption.

Attorney General

The principal legal officer who represents a country or state in legal proceedings and gives legal advice to the government. One of the roles of the Attorney General is to act as the child-support enforcement agency. The AG can file a parentage suit and has the ability to challenge the validity of genetic testing in a parentage suit.

Genetic Testing

A test that analyzes a person’s genetic markers to determine who is, or is not, a child’s biological parent. Any party can ask the court to order genetic testing, and such testing can play a pivotal role in a parentage suit due to its extremely high level of accuracy and reliability.

Termination Suit

The goal of this type of suit is to remove a child from a situation where they are being abused, neglected, abandoned or endangered by one or both parents. It can also be appropriate when a parent voluntarily wishes to relinquish rights.

Post-Termination Possession

In certain circumstances, a parent who voluntarily wishes to relinquish their rights can still have limited possession of the child, such as in a case where the parent gives the child up for adoption.

Right to Inherit

Unless otherwise provided in the judgement, a child retains the right to inherit from and through the parent regardless of a termination suit. For example, a child can be the heir of his/her half-sibling born to their mother AFTER their own relationship with the mother had been terminated. Note: This does not include inheriting benefits under the Wrongful Death Act.

Department of Family and Protective Services – The DFPS is responsible for investigating charges of abuse, neglect or the exploitation of children.

Suit for Sibling Access

Unlike a conservatorship suit, a suit for access means a person is simply asking to gain access to a child – with “access” meaning they can approach, communicate with, and visit with the child. A person with access cannot possess or control the child like a parent or conservator can. Suits for sibling access can include siblings of any age.

Suit for Grandparent Possession or Access

In winning this suit, grandparents can approach, communicate with, and visit with the child. But more importantly, they would have the right to take possession of the child for limited periods of time outside the presence of the parent or conservator. Essentially, this suit gives the grandparent a right greater than supervised access but less than possessory conservatorship.

Division of Marital Property

When a court “divides” the spouses’ community property, it is essentially giving each spouse exclusive right of possession over a specific piece of property in the divorce decree.

Confirmation of Separate Property

When a court is asked to “confirm” property it is merely awarding separate property to each spouse that owns it. This is typically a very easy process unless there is some sort of ownership dispute, in which case the court again will ultimately decide.


The official power to make legal decisions and judgements. A court generally only has jurisdiction within the boundaries of its state or county. A court cannot render a verdict on a marriage or marital property it has no legal jurisdiction over.

Subject-matter Jurisdiction

When a court has subject-matter jurisdiction, it can decide on any matters related to the divorce, including the divorce itself and division/confirmation of the spouses’ marital property. This is conditioned upon the court granting the divorce or annulment.

Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction means the court can settle matters affecting spouses who live in the same territory/state as the court. If the court has personal jurisdiction over the spouses, the court also can only act on marital property that is located within the state.


When property is legally transferred from one person to another.

Please keep this list handy for your easy reference. If you would like us to discuss a particular family law topic in these blogs, please contact our Nelson Law Group, PC office to let us know. We will be glad to help you.

Family Law Terms (Vol. V)

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Source: Nelson Law Group