These definitions provide basic information. Talk with a lawyer to determine how your rights may be affected.


(‘nullity of marriage’) – A legal action that says your marriage was never legally valid because of unsound mind, incest, bigamy, being too young to consent, fraud, force, or physical incapacity.

Best Interest of the Child

The standard that courts use to decide who will take care of the child. Some of the factors courts look at are: the age of the child, the health of the child, the emotional ties between the parents and the child, the ability of the parents to care for the child, and the child’s ties to school, home and the community.

Community and Quasi-Community Property

Generally everything that spouses acquired/bought during their marriage, including debt.


A sworn, written statement that is used as evidence in court. The statement supports or establishes a fact. The person that makes the declaration certifies or declares under penalty of perjury that the statement is true and correct. The person that makes the declaration is called the ‘Declarant’. The Declarant must sign and date the declaration. The declaration must also say where the declaration was signed or that it was made under the laws of the State of California.


A marriage that is ended by a Judge’s decision, also known as a ‘Divorce’.

Ex Parte

These Latin words mean ‘from 1 side only’. An example is a motion that is made without giving notice to the other side. In many courts, even Ex Parte motions require 24-hour notice to the other side except under unusual circumstances.

Joint Legal Custody

Parents share in making decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of their children.

Legal Separation

You and your spouse or domestic partner can end your relationship but still remain legally married or partnered, and get court orders on parenting and money issues, with a judgment of legal separation.

Marital Separation Agreement

In a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment, a stipulated judgment will often include a marital settlement agreement (MSA). A marital settlement agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse that contains detailed legal wording about how the issues in your case will be handled. It is usually used when there is a complicated issues of property, debt, support, or custody that need to be set out in the judgment.


(Parental Relationships) – A legal determination of who the parents of the child are.

Partner Support

In Family Law, court-ordered support of a registered domestic partner or ex-partner.

Personal Services

Refers to when court forms are personally served (delivered). The person who serves the forms must tell the other person that these are legal papers, then leave the papers near the person (at their feet is fine). The person they serve does not have to accept the papers or say or sign anything.

Physical Custody

The home your children primarily reside/live in.

Primary Physical Custody

A type of court order in which a child lives with one parent more than the other parent.

Pro Per

An short form of ‘in propia persona’. Refers to persons that present their own cases in court without lawyers; from the Latin for ‘in one’s own proper person’.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

An order or judgment issued by a court and approved by a pension plan, that divides a pension plan in order to make a fair division of property or to pay for child or spousal support.

Separation Date

Family Code Section 70 (a) “Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following: 

  • The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.
  • The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.
Separate Property

Anything you have that you owned before you were married or after separation. Anything received by inheritance or gift. Rents, profits, or other money you earn from your separate property. The property you buy with separate property.

Sole Legal Custody

You alone can make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of your children.