Understanding Legal Terminology in Family Law

Family law is a complex field that involves various technical terms that may appear challenging to comprehend initially. However, each term holds significant weight and can materially affect the outcome of legal proceedings. These phrases are essential to understanding how family law functions and what it entails for you and your loved ones. In this blog post, we will help you understand some important legal terms related to family law, which can assist you in navigating the legal process more efficiently.

Why Legal Terminology Matters

Comprehending the language used in your family law documents and hearings is important. Understanding legal terminology allows for clearer communication between you and your attorney, ensuring that your wishes and concerns are accurately represented. It also helps you make informed decisions, as you’ll better understand the options and implications laid out before you. By clarifying these terms, you can feel more confident during discussions and more in control of your case. This clarity can lead to more predictable outcomes and reduce the emotional and financial strain that often accompanies legal proceedings in family law.

Common Terms in Family Law

Family law encompasses a variety of terms that are essential to understand for anyone navigating this legal terrain. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common terms you might encounter:

Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage 

This is the legal termination of a marriage by a court. In Florida, a divorce is referred to as a “dissolution of marriage,” and it requires demonstrating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This process addresses various aspects, such as asset division, custody of children, and financial support.


Custody refers to the rights and responsibilities associated with caring for a child. There are two main types:

  • Time-sharing: Also known as physical custody, this determines who the child will live with.
  • Parental Responsibility: Sometimes called legal custody in other states, parental responsibility gives a parent the right to make decisions about the child’s education, health care, and other significant issues.

Courts often favor joint custody arrangements, encouraging both parents to play active roles in their children’s lives.

Child Support

This is a payment that a non-custodial parent makes to the custodial parent to cover expenses related to raising a child. In Florida, child support amounts are based on the parents’ income, the number of children, and the time each parent spends with the children. It’s intended to cover basic necessities such as food, clothing, housing, and additional costs like school fees and medical care.


Also known as spousal support, alimony is financial support paid by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Its purpose is to compensate for any significant disparities in the spouses’ financial circumstances post-divorce. Florida law recognizes several types of alimony, including temporary, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent, each designed to address specific financial needs and situations.

Marital and Non-Marital Assets

Understanding the distinction between these two types of assets is crucial during divorce proceedings. Marital assets include almost anything earned or acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. These are subject to division upon divorce. Non-marital assets, however, are those acquired before the marriage or by inheritance or gift to one spouse alone and are usually not divided.


Establishing paternity means legally determining the father of a child. Paternity must be established before a court can order child support or make custody decisions if the parents are not married. This process can ensure the child’s eligibility for benefits such as Social Security, health insurance, and inheritance.

Navigating Your Legal Journey

Understanding family law terminology is important in effectively managing the complexities of legal proceedings. By mastering these terms, you empower yourself to engage in clearer conversations with your attorney, enabling them to represent your interests more effectively. This knowledge fosters a sense of confidence and control, helping you to approach legal challenges with a clearer perspective. We encourage you to ask questions and seek detailed explanations about any unclear term or process. Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou can provide the support and clarity you need, ensuring you feel informed and involved throughout. This proactive approach can alleviate much of the stress typically associated with legal disputes and decisions.

Contact Our Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorneys

At Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, we’re committed to making family law as clear and navigable as possible for you. Our team ensures you’re well-informed and supported throughout your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see how we can assist you in reaching the best possible outcome.

About the Author
Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew and his partner, Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S., joined forces in March 2016 to form the unique and boutique husband and wife family law team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. Together, Andrew and Ophelia take a practical and team-based approach to all of their cases and clients to deliver the highest quality experience and representation.