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

Summary of Common Family Law Terms (Vol. XV)

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

Welcome to another summary of common Family Law terms. At Nelson Law Group PC, we believe in educating our clients by breaking down even the most complex and intimidating law topics into bite-size pieces that are easy to understand.

While not an exhaustive list, what we hope is that some of the words and phrases below will become less foreign to you if and when you need us. If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you can find links to our previous 14 law terms posts, if you crave even more information.

Vol. XV Terms
Guardian Ad Litem

Latin for “for the suit.” An Ad Litem is independent, neutral, and appointed by a court of law to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party who is incapable of representing him or herself. Their objective is to protect the best interest of the person they represent.

Last Will & Testament

A legal document that allows a person to detail out in writing how they wish to have their assets distributed upon their death. It is a crucial piece to estate planning, as it eliminates the threat of having the family and friends you leave behind go through any unnecessary complex legal processes.


A legal term used to describe all the money and property owned by a particular person, especially after they have died.

Estate Planning

The act of preparing a person’s money and property to be transferred to another entity or person(s) after his or her death. This includes any life insurance, pensions, cars, personal belongings, and debts.


A person who has been put in control of a person’s estate to handle all the logistics for the transfer of assets. Their duty is to carry out the instructions and wishes of the deceased.

Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is a legal and binding agreement between spouses that is executed prior to marriage. It creates clearly-defined rights and obligations for each spouse. A prenup is not mandatory according to law.

Open Adoption

A term that refers to when the birth parents and adoptive parents of a child meet and get to know each other. Their identification and history are not kept a secret, and the adoptive parents have the choice to allow the birth parents to keep visiting their child after the adoption.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoption does exactly that – it closes the door on any previous relationship between the child and its birth parents and any potential relationship between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. In closed adoption, the identities of everyone involved are not disclosed. Thus, there is no contact between them.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

An agreement between spouses that often settles many divorce disputes amicably without having to go to court. ADRs include mediation, collaborative law, informal settlement conference, arbitration, and cooperative law.

Final Protective Orders

A protective order usually comes into play in family violence and domestic abuse cases. Basically, someone (example: a spouse) believes their life is in danger, whether because of physical abuse, harassment, stalking, or some other threat. A protective order is issued for the protection of the victim, whether the violence has already happened or is likely to occur. Any violation of a protective order can result in civil and criminal consequences.

Foreign Protective Orders

These orders are still enforceable, though it is very clear they originated or were issued in another state.

Police Discretion

Police discretion is the latitude officers have to decide on their own if they want to act on a specific situation (i.e., make an arrest) they weren’t there to see with their own eyes or take a step back and avoid making what could be an unnecessary arrest. Depending on the circumstances, police discretion is perfectly fine.

Police Mandatory Decisions

The opposite of discretion. A police officer who, for example, witnesses someone commit an act of family violence or has violated a court order must take immediate action.

Joint Accounts

A joint account is a bank account that has two or more co-owners. Each owner has equal rights to the account, including deposits, withdrawals, transfers, account opening, and account closure. The question of how many joint accounts a married couple has comes into play during a divorce case as both spouses are trying to protect their assets.

Living Trust

A legal document through which assets are placed into a trust that will later be transferred to designated beneficiaries when you die.

Here are individual links to our previous 14 terms lists: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6Vol. 7, Vol. 8, Vol. 9, Vol. 10, Vol. 11, Vol. 12, Vol. 13, Vol. 14. Before filing your case, give us a call. Our friendly staff is here to help you. For more information about Brett A Nelson click here.

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