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Terminology Used in Divorce

Terminology Used in Divorce

divorce community debts

Like community property, all debts acquired during the marriage are community debts. Both husband and wife are equally liable for these debts. In most cases, this includes unpaid credit card balances, home mortgages and car loan balances.

automatic restraining order

When the divorce petition is served, neither spouse can take any children out of state, sell or borrow against property, or borrow or sell insurance held for the other spouse. These orders remain in effect until the judgment is signed by the court.

personal property (divorce)

Any property that is moveable, as opposed to land or attached to land. Cars, jewelry and furniture would all be defined as personal property.


The first document filed in court and the one that starts the clock running on any required waiting periods. The petition includes important information about the marriage, such as the husband, wife, and any children’s names, whether there is any separate or community property, child custody, child support and spousal support. The document is sometimes referred to as the complaint.


The law requires both spouses to provide the other with all information related to their property, income, assets and debts. This is called Full Disclosure. Failing to fully disclose all relevant information or concealing information can have serious consequences. It’s important to be precise and thorough when listing assets and debts. There are two disclosure forms that will be generated.

marital settlement agreement

An agreement by which both spouses document the terms of the divorce, such as the division of property, child custody and spousal support. See “Marital Settlement Agreements in a Divorce” for additional information.

judgment document

The most important document of your divorce. It is the document reflecting the final resolution of all your legal issues. Every part of your judgment is finalized when it is signed by the court, including the marital settlement agreement (if it is attached).

irreconcilable differences

When marital difficulties cannot be resolved and have led to the permanent breakdown of the marriage. These are legally sufficient grounds for a divorce.


The person who first “petitions” the court for a divorce. Some states allow for co-petitioners.

separate debts

All debts incurred before marriage that remain the obligation of only one spouse. Any educational or job training loans acquired before marriage would be separate debts.


Most states do not require physical separation in order to divorce. The date of “separation” is the date when both the husband and wife officially decide the marriage is over. The date of separation is often defined by evidence of the marriage ending, such as one person moving out.


May be filed by the respondent to agree with or dispute the facts set forth in the petition, often referred to as an Answer.

community property

It includes all property acquired during the marriage and is deemed to be owned equally by wife and husband. It includes money and wages earned during the marriage, as well as anything purchased with that money, regardless of who actually earned it. 

Community property is observed in the following states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Utah does not have community property but has something similar called Marital Property – meaning property that belongs to both spouses as the marital estate.

Free Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506