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Family Law terms and their meanings
Separation: This is the first formal step after the break up of a marriage. It essentially means that parties are living apart but are not free to remarry.
Issues such as asset division, custody of and access to children, and spousal and child maintenance are dealt with in a formal legally-binding separation agreement or by way of orders of the court in judicial separation proceedings.
Divorce: in this instance the marriage is over and both parties are free to remarry. A couple must have been living apart for four out of the last five years to qualify for Divorce in this jurisdiction.
Maintenace, Child support and Spousal maintenance
Maintenance is the payment of regular financial support to a spouse or previous spouse in respect of the living expenses either of the spouse/ ex-spouse and/or the dependent children of the union.
Spousal maintenance is generally payable where there is a spouse/ex-spouse who does not have the financial resources to support themselves adequately. In may cases the spouse will not be working outside the home or may only be capable of working on a part-time basis for whatever reason.
Child support or child maintenance which is for the financial support of children is payable to the spouse who is looking after the children on a day-to -day basis.
The amount of maintenance whether child support or spousal maintenance will depend on the respective financial resources and needs both of the separating parties and of their dependent children.
A dependent child is one who is under the age of eighteen years or between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years and attending full-time education.
Custody and Access
Provision for the care of children is obviously necessary when parents no longer reside together.
Custody largely concerns the primary residence of the child. Recognising that although the child will generally be equally attached to both parents the child will, in the interests of maintaining as much stability as possible, need to live most of the time in one house and go to one school.
Access is the term used to describe the arrangements for means the provision for contact with the other parent with whom the child is not primarily resident.
Many couples agree co-parenting arrangements which usually work well given goodwill on either side. Most parents only wish the best for their children and realise the huge important of contact with both parents and are usually able, over time, to put personal hurts to one side at least where the children are concerned.
Custody and Access an assessment by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist may be sought by either or both of the parties if agreement cannot be reached. This introduces third-party decision-makers into the process which may add to the stress of either or both parties and certainly will increase costs. It is always far preferable if the parents can themselves agree as to how best to plan for the care and welfare of their children consistent with a workable agreement for both parents. Usually children will be equally attached to parents albeit with different emphases in each relationship and the will detest having to ‘choose’ one parent over the other. They will want to be able to spend a reasonable amount of time with both parents.