Key Terms and Issues in Family Law

Considering an annulment? Not sure how spousal support or visitation rights work? We’ve defined some common family law terms and provided some very basic information to help you out:

Alimony/Spousal Support

In California, alimony laws determine if temporary, short-term, long-term or permanent partner or spousal support should be paid and how much. The Court will use a variety of important factors to calculate the amount and terms of spousal or partner support, including when support ends and what happens if a party fails to pay.


A legal procedure for ending a marriage that must be granted by a judge under annulment laws. Common reasons people file for annulment:

  • Fraud: such as a person marrying to get legal status in the country
  • Bigamy: when a spouse or domestic partner is already married to someone else
  • Incest: finding out that a partner is a close blood relative
  • Physical incapacity: meaning one of the parties is incapable of consummating the relationship
  • Mental health issues not disclosed prior to the marriage
  • Deception used by one spouse to obtain consent
  • Marriage to a person under 18 without parental consent

According to California annulment laws, there are specific statutes of limitation for filing an annulment case. You will need to present and prove the reasons for filing an annulment with the Court.


In the state of California, either parent can have custody of the child(ren), or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody but usually will approve the arrangement (the parenting plan) that both parents agree upon. If the parents cannot agree, then the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. For family law matters such as these, child custody attorneys provide a valuable source of guidance for the parents and child(ren). If you and the other parent agree on custody and want a court order that either of you can enforce if one of you violates the agreement, it can be beneficial to speak with a child custody lawyer and then turn in your agreement to a judge. The judge will probably approve the agreement, sign it, and it will become a court order.

For more key terms and issues in family law, visit the San Diego County Bar Association website.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel or serve as legal advice. If you have a family law matter, it is best to consult the advice of an attorney.  You can get referred to an attorney for a free 30 minute consultation through the San Diego County Bar’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service at or by calling 1 (800) 464-1529.

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