Glossary

  1. 401(k) Plan:  A defined contribution plan where an employee can make contributions from his or her paycheck either before or after tax, depending on the options offered in the plan.  The contributions go into a 401(k) account, with the employee often choosing the investments based on options provided under the plan.  In some plans, the employer also makes contributions such as, matching the employee’s contributions up to a certain percentage or profit sharing based on a pre-determined formula.
  2. 403(b) Plan:  A retirement plan, similar to a 401(k) plan, offered by public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations.  An individuals 403(b) annunity can be obtained only under an employer’s tax-sheltered annuity plan.  Generally, these annuities are funded by elective deferrals made under salary reduction agreements and non-elective employer contributions.
  3. Addendum: An addition to a completed written document, including the Retainer Agreement, where the terms in the original document have been modified by mutual consent.
  4. Alimony:  Court-ordered spousal support, usually periodic payments, but sometimes paid in a lump sum as part of a marital agreement (alimony “buyout”).
  5. Alternate Payee:  Any spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of a participant, who is recognized by a domestic relations order as having a right to receive all, or a portion of, the benefits payable under a plan with respect to a participant.
  6. Answer: A responsive pleading that responds to the allegations made in the complaint by admitting; denying; neither admitting nor denying; or admitting or denying a portion of an allegation set forth in the Complaint.
  7. Answer and Counterclaim: An Answer that contains a separate portion which sets forth the Defendant/Counterclaimant’s allegations against the plaintiff, as if the defendant were asking for a divorce in the first instance.
  8. Answer to Counterclaim: A responsive pleading filed by Plaintiff in which Plaintiff responds to the allegations set forth in the Counterclaim (i.e., admits, denies, neither admits nor denies, or admits or denies a portion of an allegation).
  9. Appeal:  Review of a Trials Court’s decision by the Appellate Division, which can review only the conclusions of law, not findings of fact made by the Trial Court.
  10. Appearance:  A responsive pleading in which the Defendant formally enters the action by entering an Appearance on the issues specified in the Complaint.
  11. Application:  A written request or motion, in which you ask the Court to issue an Order or to change an Order that has already been issued.
  12. Arrears:  Unpaid or overdue child support, alimony or spousal support payments.
  13. Bed and Board Divorce (formally, limited divorce): A divorce from bed and board or limited divorce, is a legal proceeding resulting in a Judgment of Limited Divorce, in which the Judgment or annexed Marital Settlement Agreement resolves all of the same issues as in an absolute divorce, except that neither party is free to remarry until and unless it is converted into a Judgment of Absolute Divorce. The primary reason such a Judgment is entered is to enable one spouse to remain covered under the other’s medical insurance policy as a spouse.
  14. Bench Warrant:  An Order from the Court (ie, the “Bench”) giving legal authority to law enforcement to arrest a person for failure to appear for a Court hearing or failure to comply with a Court Order.
  15. Beneficiary:  The person designated, by a Participate or an Alternate Payee, who, by terms of the plan, may be eligible for benefits under the plan if the Participant or Alternate Payee dies with at least a portion of the benefit remaining.
  16. Case Information Statement: All litigants in contested family actions involving support, alimony, or equitable distribution must complete Case Information Statements (CIS).  The CIS is intended to provide the Court with pertinent personal and financial information and to alert the Court to specific or special issues in the case.   It is used as an initial discovery device (mode of exchanging financial information between the parties) and under the court rules, is to be filed 20 days after a responsive pleading (i.e., Answer or Appearance) is filed with the court.
  17. Cause of Action:  A lawsuit; to bring an action (lawsuit).  Certain wrongful acts are actionable offenses, meaning that such acts are the grounds for a lawsuit (ie, they create a cause of action).
  18. Certification: A written statement, generally made in motion practice, voluntarily signed under oath similar to an Affidavit, but instead of being taken before and additionally signed by a Notary Public or Attorney at Law, contains the following language:  “I hereby certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true.  I am fully aware that if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, that I am subject to punishment.”
  19. Child Support Number (also referred to as a “CS Number”):  The identifying number assigned to your child, spousal or alimony support case.
  20. Collaborative Law:  A litigation-free means of settling disputes using a team approach.  The team consists of both parties and their respective attorneys, and could include a divorce coach, child specialist (each mental health professionals), Certified Financial Planner, and/or an Accountant.  Both parties and their collaborative lawyers agree, in writing (in a Participation Agreement) that they will not use Court proceedings.  If the parties fail to reach an agreement, collaborative lawyers are dismissed and new counsel must be retained to litigate.
  21. Complaint:  The first pleading that initiates the Court proceeding, such as a Complaint for Divorce, Complaint for Custody, Child Support, Parenting Time, Grandparent Visitation, Kinship Legal Guardianship by identifying the parties; stating the grounds for divorce; stating all claims against the Defendant; and requesting the Court to grant a Divorce, grant Custody, divide property and order support.  All complaints must be filed with the Court and served on the adverse party along with a Summons.
  22. Contested and Uncontested Divorce: In contested divorces, the parties are adversarial, they cannot agree on the resolution of all issues such as custody, alimony, equitable distribution. In uncontested divorces, the parties have agreed upon the resolution of the issues to their mutual satisfaction in an executed Marital Settlement Agreement.  An uncontested hearing is therefore scheduled with the court where the parties testify that they understand and voluntarily entered into their Marital Settlement Agreement.
  23. Court Hearing:  In law, a hearing is a proceeding before a Court or other decision-making body or officer, such as a Government Agency.  A hearing is generally distinguished from a trial in that it is usually shorter and often less formal and often referred to as a Plenary Hearing.
  24. Court Order:  The written decision issued by the Court.
  25. Custodial Parent:  Usually refers to the parent with whom the child(ren) physically reside(s), ie, the parent with Physical Custody or Primary Residential Custody, referred to as the “CP” or Parent of Primary Residence “PPR”.
  26. Custody – Legal:  Refers to the decision making on matters affecting the child’s health, education and welfare.  Joint Legal Custody, the most typical arrangement and favored by the Court, is where both parents participate in matters affecting the children’s health, education and welfare.
  27. Custody – Physical:  Relates to where the child physically resides.  The adult with whom the child primarily (ie, more than 50% of the time) resides is said to have Physical Custody.  Such terms as Sole, Primary and Joint are used to describe various parenting and visitation plans.
  28. Defined Benefit Plan:  Also known as a Traditional Pension Plan, promises a participant a specified monthly benefit at retirement.  Often, the benefit is based on factors such as the participant’s salary, age and the number of years he or she worked for the employer.  The Plan may state this promised benefit as an exact dollar amount, such as $100 per month at retirement.  Or, more commonly, it may calculate a benefit through a Plan formula that considers such factors as salary and service.
  29. Defined Contribution Plan:  A Plan where the employee and/or employer contribute to the employee’s individual account under the Plan.  The amount in the account at distribution includes the contributions and investment gains or losses, minus any investment and administrative fees.  The contributions and earnings are not taxed until distribution.  The value of the account will change based on contributions and the value and performance of the investments.
  30. Deposition:  The out-of-Court oral testimony, under oath of a witness, that is put in writing for later use in Court.  It is also used for discovery purposes.
  31. Discovery; Pretrial Discovery: Discovery is the formal procedure for gathering information pursuant to rules of court. It refers to a process by which each party seeks to acquire necessary information for trial including – information detailing marital assets, debts, income, and any additional relevant factual allegations that will be made by the opposing party, all potential witnesses and all potential documentary exhibits and other evidence to support their case.
  32. Dissipation of Assets:  Wasting of assets that might otherwise be available for distribution upon divorce.  Gambling, extravagant spending or excessive borrowing and use of credit cards are examples of dissipation.
  33. Docket Number:  The identifying number assigned to every case filed in the Court once a Complaint is filed with the Court.
  34. Domestic Relations Order:  Any Judgement, Decree or Order (including approval of a Property Settlement Agreement) which relates to the provisions of child support, alimony payments or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of a Participant, and is made pursuant to a State Domestic Relations Law (including a Community Property Law).
  35. Early Settlement Panel: A conference at the Court House attended by both parties and their attorneys with typically 2 experienced family law attorneys (at least 5 years’ experience).  Prior to the ESP (in Morris County, 5 days prior), each attorney files ESP statements to the panelists stating their position and including each party’s CIS.  During the ESP, the panelists help the parties settle the case by recommending a resolution that a judge would likely arrive at in the event the matter were to go to trial.  The recommendation is confidential, but should be confirmed in writing right after the conference so that if one party is litigating in bad faith, the ESP statement can be disclosed at trial in support of that party’s request for counsel fees.
  36. Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA):  A Federal Law that sets standards of protection for individuals in most voluntarily established, private-sector retirement plans.  ERISA requires plans to provide participants with plan information, including important facts about plan features and funding; sets minimum standards for participation, vesting, benefit accrual and funding; provides fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets; requires plans to establish a claim and appeals process for participants to get benefits from their plans; gives participants the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty; and, if a defined benefit plan is terminated, guarantees payment of certain benefits through a federally chartered corporation, known as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
  37. Exhibits:  Documentary evidence or Certifications of additional individuals that are appended to the Certification in support of a Motion or Cross-Motion.
  38. FD:  The letter the Court uses to identify a Non-Dissolution Case that involves parents who are not legally married or other adults filing for Court relief on behalf of minor children.  FD also includes married people who separate but need financial support.
  39. File:  To give the appropriate forms to the Court to have it entered as a Pleading.
  40. Income Withholding / Wage Garnishment:  A process where automatic deductions are made from wages or other income to pay your support obligation.
  41. Interrogatories:  One form of discovery.  They are written questions that are submitted to the opposing party in preparation for Trial.  The questions must be answered in writing, under oath or under penalty of perjury, within a specified time (usually 60 days).  Objections may be made to questions that are over-broad, unduly burdensome or unlikely to lead to admissible evidence.
  42. Judgment of Divorce: The court’s final judgment of Divorce, which is typically prepared by the attorney for one of the parties and consented to as to form by both parties. The Judgment of Divorce often contains annexed to it the Marital Settlement Agreement executed (signed and witnessed) by both parties.  Upon this date you are legally divorced and can remarry.
  43. Litigation:  The process where an action is initiated in Court by the filing of a Complaint, Answer and in which Motions can be filed and Discovery is conducted, and a Trial may be scheduled.
  44. Marital Assets:  Assets that are acquired during the marriage by one or both parties, such as house(s), other real estate, cash, jewelry, home furnishings, stocks, bonds, motor vehicles pensions, profit sharing plans and insurance.
  45. Mediation:  The process where the parties voluntarily engage with a neutral third party, the mediator, who would facilitate a mutually agreeable resolution of the issues.  When an Agreement is reached, the mediator prepares a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), which is used by one or both attorneys retained by the parties to draft the Marital Settlement Agreement.
  46. Motion: A motion is a written application to the court to ask that the court enter an Order for the relief requested by the party.  The motion essentially consists of the Notice of Motion, party’s Certification (with or without exhibits), and proposed form of Order.  Additional certifications may be submitted with the motion in support of the party’s request, including his or her attorney’s Certification of Services detailing the amount of time and amount of legal fees incurred in filing the motion.   For more specific requirements for filing motions, refer to the Procedure Manual.
  47. New Jersey Child Support Guidelines: Both parents are responsible for the financial and emotional support of their children. New Jersey has developed a standard method for calculating child support based on the income of both parents and other factors. The full set of NJ Child Support Guidelines is contained in Rule 5:6A of the New Jersey Court Rules.
  48. Obligor/Payor:  The person ordered by the Court to pay support, also known as the Non-Custodial Parent (“NCP”).
  49. Obligee/Payee:  The person who receives support, also known as the Custodial Parent (“CP”).
  50. Palimony:  Payment similar to alimony made to a former co-habitator.
  51. Party:  The spouse or any additional person involved in a Court action.
  52. Pension:  A series of definitely determinate payments made to you after you retire from work.  Pension payments are made regularly and are based on such factors as years of service and prior compensation.
  53. Plan Administrator:  The person or entity who is identified in the Plan document as having responsibility for running the Plan.  It could be the employer, a committee of employees, a company executive or someone hired for that purpose.
  54. Pleadings: Includes the complaint, answer or Appearance, Answer and Counterclaim, and Answer to Counterclaim.
  55. Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO):  A Domestic Relations Order which creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to, receive all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a Plan.
  56. Subpoena Duces Tecum: A legal notice issued by an attorney signed in the name of the Clerk of Superior Court to obtain specified documentation necessary for trial.
  57. Subpoena Ad Testificandum: A legal notice issued by an attorney signed in the name of the Clerk of Superior Court to compel a person to testify before an upcoming court proceeding.
  58. Summons: Official notice to the defendant that he must respond to the attached complaint. The complaint must be served with the summons for the defendant to know the particulars of the claim against him.
  59. Valuation Date:  The date as of which the benefits are measured or calculated to determine an Alternate Payee’s award amount pursuant to a QDRO.