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Decoding Divorce

Common terms, acronyms, and abbreviations used in Divorce and Family Law

Divorce Nisi: A Judgment of Divorce Nisi is the order entered by the court at the conclusion of a divorce trial or divorce settlement.  This will automatically become a Judgment of Divorce Absolute automatically after 90 days for a contested divorce or 120 days for an uncontested divorce.

DOR/CSE: Massachusetts Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division. This is the department that handles the collection and payment of child support if the parties do not make payment to one another directly. If payments are made through DOR, late fees and interest may be assessed for missed payments. This can eventually lead to driver's license suspension and other state-enforced penalties.

Merger: when a separation agreement merges into the judgment of divorce entered by the Probate Court, the agreement is subject to modification and enforcement by the Probate Court through a Complaint for Modification or a Complaint for Contempt filed in the Probate Court. 

Parenting Time: formerly called 'visitation', this is time spent by children with each parent as defined in a Parenting Plan.

Pro Se: self-represented 

QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order): an order issued by the court to create a right for an alternate payee to receive all or partial benefits under an employer-sponsored benefit or pension plan.

Rule 410: A rule issued by the Probate and Family Court regarding mandatory financial disclosures between parties to a divorce or child support proceeding in Massachusetts. 

Survival: in the context of a Separation Agreement, means that the agreement survives as a separate contract and can be enforced through Superior Court, but may still be subject to Probate Court jurisdiction in certain circumstances.

Uncontested Divorce: often referred to in Massachusetts as a "1A" divorce due to the statute that defines this type of divorce (M.G.L. Ch. 208 Sec. 1A). This is the easiest and most cost-effective divorce available in Massachusetts. It requires both parties to sign a joint petition for divorce, submit a notarized Separation Agreement, and appear in court together once.

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