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Common Terms Used in Family Law

Glossary

Contested Hearing - any matter on which the parties do not agree may become the subject of a motion or a trial before the judge, and is considered "contested" because it is in dispute.

Deposition - a formal question and answer session in which an attorney asks questions of a party and that party's sworn testimony is recorded word for word by a court reporter, for later use at trial.

Evidentiary rules - not all evidence is allowed to be presented to the court for consideration. Only that evidence which meets the strict standard of the "evidentiary rules" may be used.

Four-way meetings - two attorneys and two clients getting together to discuss the status and next steps in the process. May also mean two clients getting together with the two divorce coaches to work through the emotional process.

Interest-based negotiation - instead of each side taking a "position" and arguing his/her position to accomplish his/her goals, each side discusses and explores his/her interests (i.e. WHY he/she wants something rather than WHAT he/she wants).

Litigation - a word which means a lawsuit of any kind, but usually used to imply a court fight.

Long-term parenting plan - the long-term plan created by the parents about the future custody, placement and decision-making of and for their children.

Statutory requirements - what the Wisconsin statutes/laws require. E.g., minimum residency requirements to bring the lawsuit, waiting period for divorce, and the like.

Stipulation and Order for Collaborative Family Law - a formal agreement signed by the divorcing couple and their respective attorneys which allows them to opt out of the litigation process, and in which all promise not to use the courtroom as a battlefield. Abandonment of this agreement means starting over with new attorneys.

Subpoenas - a legal document which attorneys are permitted to use to require the appearance of a witness at any legal proceeding in order to give sworn testimony.

Traditional litigation - an adversarial lawsuit in which one party fights the other in open court.

Trial - ultimate presentation of the litigation before the judge, with each side presenting evidence and calling witnesses to the stand.

Written Interrogatories - a formal written document which asks questions of a party who must give written answers truthfully and under oath. Can be used just like sworn testimony.