Family Law Terms to Remove From Your Vocabulary

Alan R. Burton Attorney at Law

No matter your profession, you have probably seen articles circulating online or on email lists about industry-specific words to expunge from your vocabulary. Most of these articles flag certain words for deletion because they are clichés or neologisms. The first time you clicked on a clickbait article telling you to avoid saying “think outside the box” or “circle back” was probably years ago, when the term “clickbait” was known only to professional writers. The family law terms you should remove from your vocabulary, however, are actually misleading. They refer to outdated concepts in family law and therefore are unhelpful in thinking about your divorce and parenting plan.


People tend to speak of one parent having custody of the children after a divorce, while the other parent has visitation. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was more common than it is now for children to spend most of their time with one parent and to spend only two weekends a month with the other parent. Now, when possible, courts often rule to have children spend at least two nights per week with each parent. Exceptions are when the parents live so far away from each other that it is not practical to transport the children back and forth each week.

What to Say Instead: The current version of the Florida parenting plan template contains language about timesharing; it has details about what portion of every school week and every school vacation the children will spend with each parent.

What Custody Really Means According to the Law: Florida law makes a distinction between physical custody (where the children spend time) and legal custody (decision making power).  Florida parenting plans also ask parents to specify which parent is responsible for which decisions related to the children.

Temporary Alimony

Florida judges can award any of six types of alimony in a divorce. Only one of them is truly permanent. The term “temporary alimony” refers to only one of the five non-permanent types of spousal support.

What to Say Instead: Call each type of alimony by its official name. For example, if the alimony is being awarded to help the supported spouse become certified to practice a certain profession, so that he or she can become financially independent, it is rehabilitative alimony. If it is just one alimony payment, no matter how large or how small, it is lump sum alimony.

What Temporary Alimony Really Means According to the Law: Temporary alimony is spousal support paid in installments while the divorce case is still being decided. It automatically ends once a court formally dissolves the marriage. If the spousal support payments will continue even for a short time after the divorce is final, then it is not technically alimony.

Burton Law Makes Family Law Understandable

Family law case documents can be full of legal terms that mean something other than they mean when they are used in everyday speech. Contact Alan Burton, a Palm Beach family law attorney, for straight answers about divorce, spousal support, and parenting plans.

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