Common Acronyms and Terms in Family Law

For individuals preparing for a family law issue, doing some in-depth research is a good first step, but many law references use confusing terms or acronyms that are difficult to decipher. Familiarizing yourself with some of the most common family law lingo can help you better understand the information you read regarding family law proceedings.

730 Evaluation

In California child custody disputes, the courts must perform an evaluation to determine the best custody situation for the child. A social worker or member of the court will examine conditions in the home, parent-child relationships and mental health.  A 730 evaluation might be necessary in cases where the parents cannot come to terms on a custodial agreement if there are concerns about abuse, addiction, mental health or other issues that could directly affect the child’s upbringing.

ATRO: Automatic Temporary Restraining Order

ATROs are mutual restraining orders that remain effective until a court or petition deems otherwise. People can use these to prevent a party from taking a child to another state, changing the state of shared property or altering insurance coverage without written permission of the other party.

CPS: Child Protective Services

This is a government agency with the purpose of protecting children from abuse or neglect. Some may call it different names, including: The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Department of Social Services (DSS) or Department of Children and Families (DCF).

DOD: Declaration of Disclosure

In a divorce, both parties must fully disclose all assets and liabilities to divide assets and assign child and spousal support. Both parties must fill out the DOD form in its entirety. There can be serious consequences if any information regarding assets is withheld.

Domestic Violence

California law defines domestic violence as when a person with whom you share relations causes or attempts to cause physical or emotional injury. This includes sexual assault, threats, destruction of property or disruption of peace.

DVTRO: Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order

In cases of domestic violence, the abused party can obtain a DVTRO to stop an abuser from continuing harmful behavior. This gives the abuser a warning, and, if the behavior continues, there could be serious consequences. It is often the first step toward getting a permanent restraining order.

FCS: Family Court Services

If two divorcing parents cannot agree on a custody plan, they need help from FCS. FCS provides custody counseling to help the parents work out a compromise for custody based on the best interests of the child.


A garnishment is a court order that directs money from a third party to pay off a debt. Usually, the courts take the money from the wages before it reaches the employee’s hands – like taxes. In this case, garnishment is a step for when one party fails to pay child support.

IED: Income and Expense Declaration

The IED is a form that discloses information regarding income and expenses when someone requests changes for support. The courts consider lying or failing to fully disclose all information perjury and can result in hefty fines or imprisonment.

MSC: Mandatory Settlement Conference

This is an informal discussion between two conflicting parties before a trial to review the issues at hand with a neutral third party. The hopes of the MSC are to resolve the dispute with a signed agreement and avoid the headaches of a trial.

Pro Per

This phrase comes from the Latin “in propria persona,” meaning “in one’s own proper person.” Pro per in this instance means people who chose to represent themselves in court without an attorney.

UCCJEA: Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

Commissioned in 1968, the courts adopted UCCJEA to assist custodial parents in obtaining child support fees from noncustodial parents living outside the state.

Lawyers, judges and mediators – among others – use these terms throughout family law processes. If you are ever unclear about the proceedings at hand, consult with an attorney based in San Diego who focuses on divorce for guidance and explanation.