Carlsbad Family Law Attorneys
Family Law Glossary
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Glossary Of Family Law Terms


Arrears refers to child support or spousal support payments that have been missed by the obligor parent and/or spouse. Child support and spousal support arrears accrue 10% simple interest per year.

Child Custody

Child custody refers to the issue of custody of children in the context of California Family Court. There are two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody.

Child Support

Child support is financial support paid from one parent to another. Its purpose is to ensure the financial stability of the children of the relationship. Child support in California is calculated using a statewide mandated child support guideline.


A judicial officer that is not a judge. Many family law cases in San Diego County are assigned to Commissioners.


Department of Child Support Services. A California State Agency purposed to establish, maintain and enforce child support orders in California.


A computer program used by California divorce lawyers to calculate and estimate proper child support and spousal support amounts.


Domestic Violence Restraining Order. An order of protection that serves to restrain an abusing party from any contact at all with the abused. DVROs can be granted anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

Epstein Credit

A credit afforded to one party for his or her separate property contribution to a community obligation (mortgage payment on a house post-separation). Epstein credits are considered in the final division of community property.

Equalization Payment

A payment ordered to be made from one spouse to another in order to equalize the division of community property. Equalization payments cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Family Support

Combination of child support and spousal support. Family support is 100% tax deductible to the payor and must be claimed as income to the payee.


Family Court Services Mediation. Court-sponsored mediation regarding child custody disputes. Unless the parties stipulate to using a private mediator, any time the issue of child custody or visitation comes before the family court, the parties are required to attempt settlement through mediation prior to coming to court. FCS mediators write recommendations to the court in the event that the parties do not reach an agreement.


Findings and Order After Hearing. A formal order prepared by one of the attorneys that reflects the order made by the family law judge at a hearing.


Family Resolution Conference.

Legal Custody

Refers to either parent’s right to participate in the medical, educational and general welfare decisions affecting a child’s life. Most parents share joint legal custody.


Mandatory Settlement Conference. This is the last step of the divorce process before trial. The MSC is a settlement conference at which the attendance of both parties is required. A temporary judge is assigned to help the parties settle the case without the need for trial.


Preliminary Declaration Of Disclosure. This form is required to be served by both parties on the other before the case may proceed. By signing the PDOD, both parties attest under penalty of perjury that full financial disclosure has been made.

Physical Custody

Refers to the physical presence of the children during parental custodial time. Unless the parents share equal physical custody, one parent will be considered the primary custodial parent and the other will have the right of visitation.

Spousal Support

Financial support paid from one spouse (or ex-spouse) to another. The purpose of spousal support is to assist the supported party in maintaining the standard of living established during the marriage.

Status Conference

Much like an FRC, a status conference is set by the court in cases where both parties are self-represented. The purpose of the conference is for the court to determine the state of the case and to help the parties along the process if needed.


Temporary Restraining Order. A restraining order granted in conjunction with a request for a permanent Domestic Violence Restraining Order. The TRO expires automatically on the day of the hearing on the request for the DVRO.

Voc. Eval

Vocational Evaluation. An evaluation as to the job placement potential for a party to a divorce. These are often requested and ordered in cases wherein one party has not worked for a significant period of time.

Watts Charge

A monetary charge against one party’s share of community property for periods during which that party enjoyed the use of a marital asset (usually a house) without compensating the community for that use.

3048 Findings

Referring to Family Code Section 3048, standard Jurisdictional findings required to be made by a family law judge in conjunction with any orders made affecting custody and/or visitation of minor children.

4320 Factors

Referring to Family Code Section 4320, these are factors that the court must consider when making a permanent order for spousal support.

50/50 Custody

True equally shared custody of children wherein the children spend half of their time in the custody of one parent and the other half with the other parent.

730 Evaluation

Referring to Evidence Code Section 730, this is a custody evaluation performed by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist trained specifically to provide a clinical evaluation to the court as to what custody and visitation orders would be most appropriate in a particular case.