By Jodi Armstrong

When you are already in a stressful situation, and perhaps feeling a little overwhelmed by the issues that have arisen as a result of your separation, it would be nice, I am sure, to have a clear understanding of the meaning of the words that we family law lawyers tend to throw around on a regular basis.  Well … here is your cheat sheet to some of the acronyms and terms commonly used in a family law matter:

Access 

The right to spend time with a child which has been expanded to include the right to certain information about the child.

Affidavit

A sworn written statement of facts which is a form of evidence.  The facts should be within the person’s personal knowledge or, if the person learned of the fact from someone else, he or she must name that person and confirm that he or she believes that the fact is true.

Answer

The document that responds sets out the Respondent’s position on the issues raised in the Application, the claims being made by the Respondent, and the important facts that support the Respondent’s claims.

Applicant

The person who starts an Application.

Application

The document that starts a case and provides an outline of the family  history, sets out the claims being made by the Applicant, and the important facts that support the Applicant’s claims.

CAS

Children’s Aid Society.

Cohabitation Agreement

An agreement, entered into by two people who are cohabiting (or intend to cohabit) who are not married to each other, that addresses their respective rights and obligations during cohabitation or in the event of a separation.

CRA

Canada Revenue Agency

Custody 

A bundle of rights that give a person control over, and responsibility for, the child’s care, upbringing and education.

Divorce

The final, legal ending of a marriage, by Court order.

DRO

Dispute Resolution Officer – court sanctioned lay mediators who work within the court process at an early procedural phase in an attempt to assist litigating parties to resolve their legal issues.  Experienced family law lawyers have been appointed as DROs to conduct initial appearances for all Motions to Change.

Endorsement

A judge’s instructions with respect to the decision he or she has made signed by the judge and forming part of the record.

Equalization Payment

The payment owing from one married spouse to the other to equalize the parties’ net family property.

FRO

Family Responsibility Office – A program through Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services that helps enforce court-ordered child and spousal support responsibilities.

Guidelines

The Child Support Guidelines

Marriage Agreement

An agreement, between two people who are married to each other (or intend to marry each other), that addresses their respective rights and obligations during the marriage or in the event of a separation.

Matrimonial Home

A family residence in which at least one of the married spouses has an interest that is ordinarily occupied by the spouses or, if the spouses have separated, was ordinarily occupied by them at the time of the separation.

Motion (for a Temporary Order)

A court appearance in front of a judge seeking: 1) a temporary order for a claim made; 2) directions on how to carry on the case;  or 3) a change in a temporary order.

Motion to Change

A certain type of case in which a party is seeking an order to change: 1) support in an agreement that has been filed with the court or 2) a final order.

NFP

Net Family Property – Generally speaking, a married spouse’s net worth (assets less liabilities) at the time of the separation less the spouse’s net worth at the time of the wedding.

OCL

Office of the Children’s Lawyer

Order

The formal written document recording the decision that has been made by a judge on behalf of the court in a litigated proceeding.

Respondent

The person against whom a claim is made .

Section 7 Expense

Special or extraordinary expenses which fall within a legislated list under section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines, the cost of which are to be shared by the spouses in proportion to their respective incomes.  The obligation to contribute towards section 7 expenses is in addition to table support.

Separation

When there has been a breakdown of the relationship such that the spouses are not living together anymore in a marriage-like relationship and there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation.

Separation Agreement

An agreement entered into between two people who have cohabited and are living separate and apart

SSAG

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines – the Department of Justice Canada contracted with two family law professors to develop these guidelines.  They are not legislated but they provide suggestions on the appropriate ranges of spousal support amounts and duration of support, in a variety of situations.

Table support

The amount of support payable under the appropriate table in the Child Support Guidelines based on the number of children to be supported and the annual income of the support payor.

Trial

The resolution of a dispute of fact or law through judicial examination of evidence submitted by opposing litigants.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am probably forgetting something obvious.  In any event, whenever you are unsure about the meaning of something that is related to your family law matter, make sure that you ask the question … we want you to understand the process and we are always happy to try to explain.