Common Terms

California Jurisdiction

Common Terms

By: Cristin M. Lowe

ATROs—Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders.  These standard orders can be found on the back of the Summons (FL-100).  They forbid either party from removing the minor children of the relationship from the State of California and prevent both parties from canceling insurance, destroying assets, and other such “bad behavior.”

Jurisdiction—The Court’s authority to hear a case.  For child custody matters, in order for California to have any authority over the children, they must have resided in California for at least six months.  For divorce cases, one of the parties must have been a California resident for at least six months before California can assert jurisdiction.

QDRO—Qualified Domestic Relations Order.  This is the formal way retirement plans are divided.  QDROs are usually prepared by highly specialized family law attorneys or actuaries.

Long term marriage—In California, a long term marriage is typically defined as a marriage lasting 10+ years.

Alimony—Referred to as spousal support in California.

Imputation of income—If one party is unemployed or underemployed, the other party can ask the Court to calculate support based on the unemployed/underemployed party’s ability and opportunity to earn a certain amount income.

Gavron warning—It is the policy of the State of California that each party is required to seek and maintain full-time employment to the best of his or her skills, education, and work experience.  The failure to do so may result in a lowering or termination of spousal support.

Seek Work Order—A formal order from the Court requiring one or both parties to apply to a certain number of jobs per week or spend a certain number of hours each week searching for jobs.  Often times, the Court will further order the party under the seek work order to maintain a log of his or her efforts and provide a copy of the log to the other party on a regular basis.

Separate property—anything acquired before marriage and after separation

Community property—anything acquired between the date of marriage and the date of separation.  Community property means that both parties have an equal interest in the property, no matter who actually earned it or incurred the debt.

Date of separation—the date the marriage is permanently “broken.”  It does not necessarily mean a physical separation.

No fault state—This means that in California, anyone can request a divorce, legal separation, or dissolution of domestic partnership for any reason whatsoever.  The Court cannot make orders based on the reason why you’re seeking to terminate your relationship.

Dissolution—a fancy word for divorce

Watts/Epstein—These are two important family law cases that define the law concerning reimbursement claims in divorce cases.  “Watts” charges are charges against a spouse’s share of community property made to reimburse the community for the value of his or her exclusive use of the property after separation.  The most common example is if Husband moves out of the family residence but continues paying the mortgage, Wife might have to repay him the rental value of the house.  Epstein credits are reimbursement claims against the community property for the payment of a community debt with separate assets.  For example, if the parties accrued credit card debt over the course of the marriage and after separation, Husband stopped paying the creditors and left it to Wife to make all the payments, she would have a right to be reimbursed for a portion of those payments.

Parental alienation—When one party purposely attempts to cut the other parent off from the child(ren).  This can be done by bad-mouthing the other parent, encouraging the child(ren) to speak negatively about the other parent, or refusing to abide by the Court orders concerning visitation.  Parental alienation can result in a change of custody.

DissoMaster™–the program used to calculate child and temporary spousal support.

PDD’s—Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure.  This refers to a requirement that both parties must provide the other with a full financial disclosure including four standard forms: 1) Income and Expense Declaration; 2) Schedule of Assets and Debts; 3) Declaration of Disclosure; 4) Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.  This requirement must be met before a divorce can be finalized.

Bifurcation of marital status—to separate (bifurcate) the issue of the parties’ marital status from the other issues in the divorce itself.  In other words, the parties can divorce and return to the status of single persons prior to resolving the remaining divorce issues, including property division, support, custody, and visitation.

OSC—Order to Show Cause.  This is one of two ways to obtain temporary Court orders regarding any family law issue.  An OSC can request orders regarding anything from property division to exclusive use to the house or attorney fees.

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