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Minnesota and Wisconsin Family Law Terms Glossary

Adjudicated Father is a phrase that generally referred to about a man that a court or a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) says is the legal father of the child.

Affidavit A written document made under oath. The person signing it is saying that these are the facts as they know them.

Alimony, maintenance and spousal support are legal terms for payments, usually made monthly, from one spouse to the other, often for a certain number of years. Payments may be ordered on a temporary basis during the pendency of the divorce. They also may be permanent obligations. At present, in most states, spousal support payments are used as a means of catching up for those spouses whose circumstances have kept them out of the workplace for a significant period.

Best Interests of the Child Minnesota and Wisconsin law looks at what is best for the child when deciding about custody for the first time. This is called "Best Interests of the Child." It is a legal standard of 13 factors.

Child support is a phrase that generally refers to the amount of money one parent pays to the other to help support their common-children when the parents are not living together. The current state of the law takes most of the contention out of the child support issues. Child support guidelines in most states make it primarily formulaic to determine whom is ordered to pay support, and in what amount.

Collaborative law is a process in which divorcing couples and their attorneys make a commitment to alternative dispute resolution instead of resorting first to court. If either party consequently decides to go to court all attorneys must withdraw, and the parties must find new legal counsel.

Community property is a legal term that describes the law in some states setting forth the prescribed division of that property that was acquired by the parties, either individually or as a couple, and includes the income of the parties. Some states divide community property equally, while others first make a determination of what constitutes community property and then make an equitable division of the property.

Divorce or dissolution of marriage is terms for the process by which the marriage of two people is terminated. It may also establish their right to remarry, distribute their property between them according to the law of the state in which they reside, determine whether either party will pay spousal support, and, if they have children, with whom the children shall live and whether one party will pay child support.

Domestic violence is sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence because it is not limited to parties living together. Domestic violence is the control of another through physical, verbal, emotional, psychological and spiritual violence. Intimate partner violence figures broadly in many family law issues, including child custody and visitation. Studies have shown that the period between initial separation and divorce can be the most dangerous for victims of domestic violence and their children.

Equitable division is a term that describes the law in most states that provides a process for the division of property of the parties. Taking into account all of the circumstances of the parties division or property is completed according to the equities of those circumstances.

Joint Physical Custody When the child lives part-time with one parent and part-time with another parent. Joint physical custody is not always 50/50 between the parents.

Legal Custody The parent(s) with legal custody make the big decisions in the childs life. Things like choices about the childs school, religion, and major medical decisions. The court likes parents to have joint legal custody. This means that they have equal rights in making decisions. But, if there has been domestic abuse or if the parents cannot get along at all, the court does not want them to have joint legal custody.

Motion A formal request asking the court to do something.

Parenting Time This is the time that a parent spends with the child. It does not matter who has physical custody. Mostly, Parenting Time is used when talking about the parent who does not have physical custody and the time they spend with the child. This used to be called "visitation" in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Paternity Paternity has to do with who is the "legal father" of a child. The biological father is not always the legal father. Only the legal father has the rights and responsibilities of a father. Paternity can be established when both the mother and father sign a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) or with a paternity action in court. You do not have to have genetic testing(DNA testing) before deciding paternity, but is often a good idea.

Paternity Order A court order that says who the legal father is. The paternity order also tells you what rights the parents have. The order might say who has physical and legal custody of the child, and if parenting time is given to the noncustodial parent.

Physical Custody The child lives with the parent who has physical custody. That parent is in charge of the childs day-to-day care. One parent can have sole physical custody or both parents can have joint physical custody. Mostly, the courts give sole physical custody to one parent. One parent can have sole physical custody even if both parents have joint legal custody.

Prenuptial agreement is a legal term for a contract entered into by parties still contemplating marriage setting forth their intentions how their individual property will be divided should they ultimately separate. If not patently unfair to one party, most prenuptial agreements will be enforced in court so long as the court is convinced the parties entered into the agreement with full disclosure and no coercion, and if the agreement does not work a hardship on either of the parties.

Presumption of Paternity In some cases, the court will take for granted that a certain man is the father of a child, like a husband. The man has to prove he is NOT the father if he does not agree.

Pro Se liternally translates to "for oneself." Pro se means that you do not have an attorney and are representing yourself in court.

Recognition of Parentage (ROP) A form that unmarried parents can sign to create the legal relationship between the father and the child.