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See Spousal Maintenance


The deficiency between the amount required to be paid under a court order and the amount actually paid.

Child Support

Court-ordered payments for the support of a child or children that are not tax deductible by the paying parent, nor taxable income to the receiving parent.


Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Federal legislation that guarantees all persons covered by medical insurance, the right, for a monthly fee, to continue coverage even if their employment or marital status changes.


Commingle means to mix the separate property of one spouse with property belonging to the community or to the other spouse. For example, if Husband inherits $5,000 from his father that is Husband(s) separate property. If Husband uses the $5,000 as a down payment on a home that is then titled in both spouse(s) names, the $5,000 has been converted to community property.

Community Property

Generally, community property is everything acquired during marriage except by gift, devise, or descent (inheritance). See Ariz. Rev. Stat. ( 25-211(1) (2000). This means that earnings and property acquired by either spouse are viewed as joint property. Thus, salaries earned by each spouse during marriage are community property. It is irrelevant that the property acquired is in only one spouse(s) name. The philosophy underlying this is that marriage is a full partnership, and that the contributions of a homemaker are equal in value to those of the bread-winner. This marital property includes pensions and retirement investments acquired or earned during the marriage, as well as equity in property built up during the marriage.

Decision-making Authority

See Legal decision-making authority.


See Wage Assignment

Guardian ad Litem

A court-appointed individual who, for the purpose of pending litigation, puts himself in the shoes of a legally incompetent person such as a minor child. A GAL investigates the contested matter, uses their own judgment to determine the 'best interest of the child,' and reports her findings and recommendations to the court.

Home State

(a) The state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding, including any period during which that person is temporarily absent from that state.
(b) If a child is less than six months of age, the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent or person acting as a parent, including any period during which that person is temporarily absent from that state.

Imputed Income

When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, income can be attributed to him because he is trained, educated, experienced and/or capable of earning income. This theory is most often applied when calculating child support.

Joint Decision-making Authority

Joint decision-making authority means that both parents share legal decision making authority and neither parent's rights or responsibilities are superior to the other's.

Joint Physical Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Parenting Time.

Joint Legal Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Legal Decision-making Authority.

Joint Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Legal Decision-making Authority.

Legal Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Legal Decision-making Authority.

Legal Decision-making Authority

Legal decision-making authority means the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for the children including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions. Formerly known as legal custody.

Legal Decision-making and/or Parenting Time Evaluation

An evaluation is often the best way to determine what kind of decision-making authority (DMA) and/or parenting time each parent should have. Evaluations are usually conducted by a mental health professional who makes recommendations to the court regarding DMA and parenting time. The process may include interviews, psychological testing, and home visits. The court is not bound by the evaluators recommendations, but can give them great weight when making a decision.


An informal, voluntary process allowing parties to work with a neutral third party to develop a separation agreement. In Pima County, the Family Center of Conciliation Court (FCCC) provides free mediation of decision-making authority and parenting time disputes regarding minor children for parents going through a divorce, legal separation, paternity or child support action in the Superior Court.

No-fault Divorce

Arizona is a no-fault divorce jurisdiction. In fault divorces, the petition for divorce must state grounds for divorce, such as cruel and abusive treatment, adultery, abandonment, and other types of misconduct. In a no-fault divorce, a spouse only has to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Parental Kidnapping

The act of one parent illegally taking a child in violation of court order. The federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act requires states to cooperate with each other in returning children kidnapped by a parent.

Parenting Time

Means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to the children at specified times. Each parent during their scheduled parenting time is responsible for providing the children with food, clothing, and shelter and may make routine decisions concerning the children's care. Parenting time is either equal or unequal. If Parenting Time is unequal, the parent who has the children living with them more often is commonly referred to as the primary residential parent.

Pendente Lite

Latin for 'during the litigation.'

Petition for Dissolution

Petition for Divorce.


One who initiates a petition, which is a pleading wherein specific orders are requested from the court.

Physical Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Parenting Time.

Putative Father

A man who was not married to the mother during the pregnancy and has not yet established his paternity. A man believed to be the biological father of a child.


Qualified Domestic Relations Order, pronounced (quad-row(, is a specific type of domestic relations order that recognizes the right of an alternate payee to receive all or part of a pension plan, which belongs to another person. Typically, the order assigns some or all of a participant's pension benefits to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent to satisfy family support or marital property obligations. QDROs often are used when one party has a large pension or 401K and other assets of the community are insufficient to equalize the distribution of property between the parties.


The person expected to answer a petition for a court order.

Separate Property

Separate property is not considered part of the marital estate. There are two main forms of non-marital property: property acquired before the marriage (or in exchange for property acquired before the marriage) and property acquired as a gift or inheritance made by a third party to one spouse but not the other (or any property acquired in exchange for such property).
For example, if one spouse has $5,000 in cash prior to the marriage and during the marriage she buys a car using only that $5,000, the car is still considered that spouse(s) separate property. If the spouse uses that $5,000 to buy a house and the house is titled in both parties names, the $5,000 may be considered as a gift to the community and no longer the separate property of the one spouse.

Service of Process

The delivery of a petition or other pleading to those parties named in a court proceeding. It is the legal process of informing, or giving notice that a complaint or motion is pending. Process is served personally either in-hand or accepted by an adult at the recipient's residence or place of business. If the opposing party cannot be located, service is by publication in the local newspaper where he last lived.


See Service of Process.

Sole Legal Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Legal Decision-making Authority.

Sole Physical Custody

Arizona eradicated this term in 2013. Please see Legal Decision-making Authority.

Spousal Maintenance

Court ordered usually monthly payments to a spouse. Payments are tax deductible to the payor and included in the payee's taxable income.


Refers to time a non-parent spends with a child. For example, a parent has parenting time, but a grandparent has visitation.

Wage Assignment

A court order to a third party, usually an employer, requiring the employee's wages to be automatically deducted from a paycheck and assigned or paid to another party. Wage assignment is required in child support cases because it avoids late or missed payments.

Last Updated: 01/23/2015