Dissolution of Marriage – Definitions

More commonly referred to as divorce.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Previously referred to as custody; allocates living arrangements for children at issue and designates which parent will make major decisions concerning education, medical and religious upbringing issues. If parents were never married a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibility needs to be filed instead of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Parental responsibilities may be allocated jointly or solely to the parties. A non-biological stepparent, grandparent or psychological parent may also be allocated parental responsibilities depending on the circumstances.


A declaration that the marriage was invalid from its inception, such as a bigamous marriage.

Child Support

Statutorily determined to a very large extent based upon the parties’ combined incomes, daycare and health insurance expenses for the children, necessary support for other children of one of the parties and any extra ordinary medical or educational expenses necessary for the children. An individual’s monthly expenses are generally not taken into consideration when calculating child support although it is possible to deviate from the amount of support dictated by statute. Child support terminates at age nineteen or upon emancipate, which ever occurs first, unless the child has special needs.

Contempt of Court and Contempt Citations

If an individual has been ordered to perform a particular act or ordered to refrain from engaging in certain conduct and fails to comply with that court order, that individual may be called before the Court pursuant to a contempt citation, to explain to the court why the individual did not comply with the order. The Court may order an individual to comply with previously issued orders or may impose a jail sentence for the individual’s failure to comply with Court orders.

Decision Making

Refers to which parent will make major decisions for the children, including decisions on educational, medical and religious upbringing. It may also include decisions on extracurricular activities, daycare and any other relevant issue.


Commonly referred to as alimony; may be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis in dissolution of marriage cases. Temporary maintenance is usually calculated pursuant to a formula based simply on the parties’ incomes, which also requires temporarily allocating payment of marital debts between the parties. Permanent maintenance takes into consideration property awarded to an individual, as well as that individual’s ability to work and support themselves, whether there are young children for which to care, children with special needs or a parent attending an educational institution, the length of the marriage and standard of living during the marriage, in addition to other factors.

Modification of Child Support

Child support is always modifiable if there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that would result in greater than a ten percent increase or decrease in the amount of child support owed. Child support is often modified when the parties’ incomes have increased over the years, one party’s income has decreased, day care expenses have decreased or are no longer incurred or health insurance expenses have changed for the children.

Parenting Time

Formerly called visitation; refers to how much time the children will spend with each parent, depending on many factors including but not limited to, the age of the children, life styles of the parents, parental commitment to the children, work schedules and physical proximity of the parents’ residences to each other.

Restraining and Protective Orders

Can be obtained to protect adults as well as children if there has been physical violence, a threat of violence, emotional harm to adults or children or conduct that may significantly impair a child’s emotional development and unless the person is restrained such conduct would continue. Protective orders may result in an individual being removed from the home and may include temporary parenting time provisions.

Trust Accounts

Are you the beneficiary of a Trust Account?  Some funds received as a beneficiary may be considered to be a martial asset subject to  division or consideration as an asset.

Life Insurance

Some life insurance accounts have cash value that may be a marital asset subject to division.

Defined Benefit Plans

Are you or your spouse entitled to receive a monthly pension from a current of former employer?  The value of these plans may constituted a marital asset to divide if earned during the marriage.

Defined Contribution Plans

A typical defined contribution plan  has a cash value, such as a 401K plan, constituting a marital asset if earned during the marriage.