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

Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. VIII)

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

There is a significant amount of terminology and unique terms associated with family law, and Nelson Law Group PC realizes that not everyone can easily make sense of it all. For those of you who need a crash course, you have come to the right place.

Here are 20 more common family law terms that we’ve used over the last few blogs. We also included links to our previous vocabulary blogs as a reference for those who are new to the site.

January 2016:

May 2016:

August 2016:

October 2016:

January 2017:

March 2017:

June 2017:

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

Reimbursement Claim

A claim between two divorcing spouses in which one spouse looks to recover contributions made by one marital estate (their own) to the other spouse’s estate. This can include monetary contributions as well as contributions of labor and skill.

Petitionary Spouse

In terms of a reimbursement claim, dissolution or postdissolution suit, this is the spouse making a formal request of the court.

Respondent Spouse

The party who makes an answer to or appeals a judgement.

Unsecured Liabilities

Debts that are not secured against collateral. Examples can include credit cards, taxes, interest, utility payments, judgement debts.


Time, Toil, Talent and Effort. In a reimbursement claim, a spouse must prove the value of the uncompensated time, toil, talent, and effort AND that this value exceeded what was reasonably necessary to manage and preserve the separate property.

Equitable Defenses

When one spouse cannot be reimbursed for contributions if they displayed improper or unfair conduct. For example, a husband who filed a claim could have it denied based on his abuse of his daughter and control of his spouse’s financial independence.

Offsetting Benefits

In response to a reimbursement claim, a respondent spouse can claim that the petitioning spouse received benefits from their contribution. Examples include use and enjoyment of the property or tax benefits and other offsets such as salary, bonuses, or dividends.

Postdissolution Property Suits

A suit between former spouses who remained – or became – joint owners of a property after a final divorce decree was rendered.

Cotenant Spouses

Spouses who, after divorce, are legally considered joint owners or tenants of a particular piece of property. The parties can either remain cotenants or file a postdissolution property suit to have a court partition (separate) the community property.

Partition Suit (Family Code)

When a court legally separates community property. Under the Family Code, a court can partition only property that was not ruled on by a court in a final dissolution decree. The property must be partitioned in a just and right manner.

Partition Suit ( Property Code)

Another method for a court to legally separate property. Under the property code, any jointly-owned property can be partitioned, but generally the property must be partitioned equally.”


Also means denial or rejection of a proposed claim.

Foreign Court

This refers to a court which does not have jurisdiction to rule on a certain claim. For example, a court cannot technically rule on a partition suit that involves a piece of property that is not in that court’s jurisdiction.

Petitioner’s Burden

This refers to the obligation placed on a petitioning spouse to prove by way of clear and convincing evidence that their claim is justifiable. An example is establishing that a piece of community property existed when the marriage was being dissolved and that the property was not divided or considered by the court.

Risiduary Clause

A final decree may contain a residuary clause that awards one or both spouses title to any community property that is not specifically awarded in the decree. The purpose of such clauses is to ensure that there is no remaining undivided community property after  the marriage is dissolved.

Personal Effects

Refers to items of personal property that are used or are usable primarily by the person to whom they are related. This includes clothes, jewelry, toiletries, glasses, etc.

Res Judicata

A latin term meaning, a thing adjudicated or settled by judicial decisions. Parties cannot file a second lawsuit once a final decision has been rendered.


Laches bars a petitioner from bringing a suit if the respondent can prove the petitioner unreasonably delayed asserting his/her legal rights and the respondent changed his/her position in good faith to his/her detriment because of the delay.

Mutual Mistake

A defense for a respondent spouse where they can assert that both parties made a mistake. If the respondent can prove the property was not divided by the property settlement agreement due to a mutual mistake, the respondent can ask the court to reform the agreement instead of partitioning the property.

In Rem Jurisdiction

A legal term used to describe the exercise of power by a court over property or a “status” against a person over whom the court does not have jurisdiction. In Rem Jurisdiction assumes the property or status, not to person, is the object of the action.

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 would love to hear from you.

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Source: Nelson Law Group