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Four Family Law Terms You Should Know

When you begin the divorce or child custody process, there is often a learning curve as you start to hear legal terms that you do not know. As lawyers, we sometimes forget that lawyers and courts use words that do not make sense to non-lawyers. Or, the words attorneys use sound common, but most people do not have a clear understanding of the legal meaning behind these terms.

Here are four family law terms that you may have questions about:


“Dissolution of Marriage” is the legal term for divorce in Colorado. When you file your paperwork telling the court that you want a divorce, you file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” You are essentially asking the court to dissolve your marriage. Sometimes lawyers will say “Petition for Dissolution.” What they mean is the piece of paper you filed asking the court to grant your divorce.


When your divorce is finalized you will end up with a couple of important documents. One of the most important ones is called a “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.” This document is the Court’s final Order stating that your divorce is completed. Lawyers like to call this document your “decree.” Your decree will include the date the Court granted your divorce and the judicial officer’s signature.

The decree often states right on it that it incorporates other Orders from the Court. For example, if you settle your case with your ex-spouse then the decree will include the separation agreement that you and your ex-spouse drafted up. If you go to a permanent orders hearing, then your decree will incorporate the permanent orders from the judge or magistrate. What the decree does by incorporating those documents is it makes them the final orders of the court.

If you need to show someone your final divorce orders, you will need to show them your decree as well as your permanent orders or your separation agreement. You should ask a lawyer if there are any other documents that are incorporated into your decree, as each case is a little different.


Maintenance is the word that Colorado courts use today instead of alimony or spousal support. Maintenance is the money that one spouse pays to another spouse after a divorce to help them maintain the standard of living that existed during the marriage. Colorado courts have guidelines on the amount and duration of maintenance for marriages that last longer than three years. If you have questions about whether you may owe maintenance to your spouse, give our office a call today.


Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is the legal term for child custody in Colorado. Sometimes lawyers will shorten the term allocation of parental responsibilities and call it an “APR.” In Colorado, custody, or APR, is split into two categories: 1) parental decision-making responsibilities, and 2) parenting time.

Any time the court is asked to make an initial determination regarding the custody of children, or APR, the court must make orders about both decision making and parenting time. For more information check out our website. If you have a child custody case that you need help navigating, give us a call or send us an email today.

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