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Definitions of Commonly Used Terms in Family Law

Definitions of Commonly Used Terms in Family Law

Legal jargon can be confusing, especially when you’re not a lawyer. To help, we have defined some common terms that are often used in family law proceedings.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the physical care of the child. This encompasses who the child primarily lives with and who supervises the child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the decision-making for the child. Decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, and medical care all fall under legal custody.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is simply the time the child spends with each parent. This may also be referred to as “visitation.” There are specific parenting time rules set out by the state of Indiana. If you are interested, those rules are linked here: https://www.in.gov/courts/rules/parenting/index.html


Many people might know “maintenance” as “alimony.” The term “alimony” isn’t really used anymore, but the concept remains the same. Maintenance is a form of monetary support that a party pays to their former spouse. To learn more about spousal maintenance in Indiana, check out our previous blog linked here: https://www.mcneelylaw.com/newsroom/alimony-and-spousal-maintenance-in-indiana


Mediation is a meeting between parties and their lawyers to try to settle a dispute outside of court. The meeting is run by a mediator who is a neutral third party. The mediator talks to each of the parties, asks questions, and helps the parties reach a resolution. To learn more about mediation, check out our blog on What to Expect at Mediation: https://www.mcneelylaw.com/newsroom/what-to-expect-at-mediation


QDRO, pronounced “Quadro,” stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order. It is an order for a retirement plan to be split in some way to fairly divide property amongst parties.


A party that does not follow the terms of a court order may be held in contempt. When you are in contempt, you are then punished by the court.

Marital Estate

The marital estate is everything that is subject to division in a divorce. To learn more about what is considered part of the marital estate, read our previous blog on the topic here: https://www.mcneelylaw.com/newsroom/what-is-part-of-the-marital-estate

Legal Separation

Legal separation is different than divorce. Legal separation allows couples to request court orders and address issues related to divorce (like child custody, child support, and asset division) without dissolving the marriage. To read more about legal separation, check out our previous blog here: https://www.mcneelylaw.com/newsroom/legal-separation


Discovery is a way for parties to get information from the other side or other people. During the discovery process you will likely have to answer questions the opposing party asks of you and provide documents they request.

If you are involved in a family law matter, contact McNeelyLaw today. Call us at 317-825-5110 to talk to an experienced family law attorney who can help navigate you through your case.

This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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