What all those legal terms mean in family court

What all those legal terms mean in family court

While going through a divorce or allocation of parenting responsibilities (APR), your attorney and the court may use several terms you’ve never heard. Here is a list of the most commonly used terms from both types of cases and what they mean. If there are other terms you are unsure of, be sure to ask your attorney so you can understand exactly what’s going on.

  • Petitioner: The person who files the petition with the court, asking the court to grant an order.
  • Petition: Document that officially commences a dissolution or allocation of parental rights proceeding by requesting a Court Order to terminate the marriage, award maintenance, arrange the terms of allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, and division of property and debts.
  • Respondent: The person served a Petition who must respond to the allegations of the Petition to have his/her desires considered.
  • Response: Document filed with the court that responds to each allegation in the petition.
  • Dissolution: More commonly called “divorce”, dissolution of marriage is the legal term for the termination of the legal marriage between two parties.
  • Parental Responsibilities: This term includes both parenting time and decision-making responsibilities regarding the children. Colorado no longer uses the term “custody”.
  • Child Family Investigator: A court-appointed individual who will evaluate independently the issues for the best interest of the child and report his/her findings to the Court. A CFI is not used in every divorce of APR case.
  • Mediation: A confidential process whereby a trained neutral third party assists disputing parties to reach their own resolution. Mediation is often required by the court for both divorce and APR cases.
  • Hearing: A meeting before the court where all parties must appear.
  • Motion: A formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment.
  • Decree: A final order of the court.

Many definitions are provided by the Colorado Judicial Department.

If you have any questions about what certain terms mean in your case, schedule a free consultation. I’m happy to help explain!


This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.