Have trouble following along when your attorney gives you an update?  Confused by what the Judge had to say? You are not alone. Unfortunately, lawyers and Judges often speak and write using words that are unfamiliar and uncommon. Terms and words that may be commonplace in the legal world may need some extra explanation. Here is a list of some common Missouri family law and divorce terms you may hear during your divorce.


This is the document that one spouse files to initiate a court proceeding for a divorce or legal separation.  This document is the official request to the Court to grant a divorce or legal separation.

Order of Protection:

These legal proceedings are orders issued by the Court prohibiting behavior or contact between two people or between an adult and a child.  The Court can issue an Order of Protection between two adults (called an Adult Order of Protection) or between an adult and a child (called a Child Order of Protection).  Orders of Protection usually involve allegations of domestic violence, abuse, stalking or harassment.  Most people know this as a restraining order.


The legal age at which a child is no longer eligible for child support.  In Missouri, the age of emancipation cannot exceed age 21 unless a child is physically or mentally incapacitated.  For child support to extend beyond age 18, or beyond high school graduation, certain conditions must be met for the child to be eligible for child support between the ages of 18-21.

The formal process in a divorce or legal separation court case to request and exchange documents and information.  There are several sub-categories of Discovery:


Several counties in Missouri have a Mandatory Document Exchange, which is a specified list of documents each spouse must provide to the other by a specified date.


A subpoena is an order to compel someone to give testimony or to produce evidence.  In divorces, it is not uncommon to subpoena a bank for monthly bank statements or a school for educational records of the children.  The subpoena is served on the person or entity who you want to testify or who holds the records you are seeking.


A form of a subpoena which compels a spouse to answer questions by the other spouse’s attorney under oath at a set date and time that is not at court.

PDL Motion/PDL Judgment:

PDL is Latin for pendente lite, translated to “pending the litigation.”  PDL Motions are motions that ask the court to make temporary orders for child support, alimony/maintenance, or child custody while a divorce case is unfinished.  PDL Motions can also ask a court to have a spouse move out of the house during the divorce.  A PDL Judgment is the court order resulting from a hearing after a PDL Motion is filed.  Sometimes, a PDL Judgment is entered into during the case by consent and without a hearing.


This is final court order granting the divorce.  A Decree will address all issues in the divorce (division of assets and debts, child custody, child support, maintenance or alimony, etc).

Divorce is hard enough without feeling left out because the words don’t make sense. Confusing things further, different jurisdictions might have different meanings for legal jargon (the above terms are applicable to Missouri divorce cases only; your local jurisdiction may use the same terms but have a different meaning.)  Anytime your lawyer uses legalese that you don’t understand, ask for more explanation.  The more you know, the better you can make decisions for you and your family.  The attorneys of Jones Family Law Group, LLC are here to help explain the process and take the mystery out of the legal world.  Contact us for a confidential consultation.