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Commonly Used Acronyms and Terms in Family Court

Reading about legal matters, divorce proceedings and family court processes can mean coming across unfamiliar words and abbreviations. The acronyms and terms for divorce explained below are commonly used in family court throughout the divorce process.


Child or spousal support that is overdue or unpaid. A party that has arrearages is “in arrears.”

ATRO’s: Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders

A court order that goes into effect upon the filing of a petition for dissolution, legal separation or annulment. Such orders restrain each spouse from disposing of, wasting or encumbering property or taking minor children out of the State until further court order.

CP: Community Property

Also called marital property, this is everything that spouses or domestic partners own together. It includes everything a spouse bought or got during the marriage or in a domestic partnership, including debt, that is not a gift or inheritance.

Community property also includes all the earnings of either spouse or partner during the marriage and everything bought with those earnings.

You can usually tell if property belongs to the community by looking at the source of the money that was used to buy it. If the purchase money was earned during the marriage, the property probably belongs to the community.

Community property also includes any debt that the couple acquires during the marriage or partnership.

CPS: Child Protective Services

CPS investigates reports of suspected child abuse and neglect and intervenes with families who do not meet the minimum community standards of health and safety as required by law. Matters involving CPS are handled in juvenile court, however, a case involving CPS will effect child custody orders made in family court.

DCSS: Department of Child Support Services

The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) provides free services to families receiving state welfare funds, including representation to establish paternity, establish, enforce or modify child support orders, and to collect and distribute child and spousal support payments.

DOM: date of marriage

The date the marriage began, by signing and registering a marriage license, witnessed by a third party.

DOS: date of separation

The date of separation for divorces or registered domestic partnerships is when one spouse (or both) or one partner (or both) decides that the marriage or partnership is over and takes some actions to show this (like moving out of the house).

DVTRO: Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order

A restraining order is a court order issued to prevent the recurrence of acts of abuse by a batterer. Abuse includes causing bodily injury, sexual assault, placing a person in reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury, or engaging in any behavior that disturbs the peace of another who is of a close relation to the abuser.

The restraining order can include restraints on personal conduct by the batterer, orders for the batterer to stay away from the victim’s home/work and/or children’s school, orders for the batterer to be removed from the residence, and child custody, visitation and support orders and other miscellaneous orders.

Ex Parte

These Latin words mean “from one side only.” An example is a motion that is made without giving notice to the other side. In many courts, even ex parte motions require 24-hour notice to the other side except under unusual circumstances.

FCS: Family Court Services

FCS provides child custody recommendations in family law cases when separating or divorcing parents cannot agree on a joint legal custody plan. Legal custody counseling is provided in a private counseling office with a court counselor. The FCS conference allows both parents to work together toward a mutually acceptable agreement that is in the best interest of the children.

FLF: Family Law Facilitator’s Office

The staff of the Family Law Facilitator’s Office (FLF) is available, at no cost, to help unrepresented parents and parties who have questions about family law issues. They can help prepare court forms and provide general legal information.

The FLF is staffed by court attorneys, paralegals, and clerks with experience in family law. The FLF does not assist parents or parties who have an attorney of record on file. The attorneys at the FLF are not your lawyers, but are neutral court employees who do not represent any parent or party and may provide information and services to all parties in the case.

Help is provided through group workshops and walk in assistance. Click here for more information.

FRC: Family Resolution Conference

An FRC is a hearing at which the parties, their attorneys, and a judicial officer work together to develop a plan for managing the case and resolving legal disputes as quickly, fairly, and efficiently as possible.

When both parties are self-represented litigants (SRL), the court will set a Self-Represented Family Case Resolution Conference (SFRC). The court automatically sets the initial FRC/SFRC.


A legal remedy whereby a supporting party’s property or money in the possession or under the control of a third person (commonly an employer) is withheld from the supporting party and applied directly to the debt.

IED: Income and Expense Declaration

A form on which parties disclose to each other their income and expenses under penalty of perjury. This must be completed every time a party requests support or a modification of child support or spousal support. (Included in preliminary and final disclosures.)

MSC: Mandatory Settlement Conference

Before any trial, parties with attorneys will participate in an MSC. The purpose of the MSC is to informally discuss the disputed issues and facts in the case with a qualified family law attorney appointed by the court to act as a neutral third party.

The goal is to reach a signed settlement agreement on some or all of the disputed issues without going through a time-consuming and expensive trial.

DOD’s: Declarations of Disclosure – Preliminary and Final

California family law requires full and accurate disclosure of assets, liabilities and financial circumstances throughout the early and final stages of divorce proceedings in order to ensure a proper division of community property and fair child support and spousal support awards.

To achieve this goal, the law mandates the exchange of prescribed “preliminary” and “final” declarations of disclosures. Final disclosures can be waived via agreement between both parties.

SAD: Schedule of Assets and Debts

A form on which each party must disclose all their assets and debts under penalty of perjury and give to the other side. (Included in preliminary and final disclosures.)

MSA: Marital Settlement Agreement

A settlement agreement reached between parties to a divorce or legal separation, resolving all outstanding legal disputes between the Parties.

Pro Per

A short form of “in propria persona.” Refers to persons that present their own cases in court without lawyers from the Latin for “in one’s own proper person.”

SP: Separate Property

Anything acquired by a spouse before the marriage, during the marriage by gift, devise, or bequest, and after the parties separate.

Stipulated Judgment

An agreement between the Parties regarding resolution of all outstanding disputes between the Parties that is incorporated into the judgment and enforceable as a judgment.

UCCJEA: Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

A set of federal laws, adopted by California, designed to assist parties to receive child support from non-custodial parents living in other states.

730 Evaluation

An evaluation conducted in child custody disputes pursuant to California Evidence Code §730, in which a child custody evaluator will perform a thorough investigation of the family dynamics and make a recommendation to the judge as to what the evaluator believes is the best interest of the child.


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