Real Estate Divorce Glossary

6/36 Rule

A rule that lenders use to determine whether a person’s alimony and/or child support income can be used to help them qualify for a loan. The rule states that the support income must have been paid consistently for the past six months, and will continue to be paid to the spouse for a minimum of 36 months from the date of the loan application.

ALTA Settlement Statement

The ALTA settlement statement is an itemized list of all of the fees or charges that a buyer and seller will pay during the settlement portion of a real estate transaction. Learn more at

Amortization Schedule

A chart that shows how mortgage payments will affect mortgage debt over time. It outlines how much of a given mortgage payment will go toward principal and interest (PI) at the start of the loan, as well as outlining the changes in how those payments will be applied as the mortgage matures. Learn more about amortization.


The legal erasure of a marriage as if it never existed.


Performed by a certified appraiser, an appraisal is the detailed, official property evaluation required by most lenders before they will issue final approval for a loan. It includes physical measurements of the land and structures, sometimes includes permit and zoning research, and always contains detailed information about the suitability and value of the home. See also: What does an appraiser do?

ARM/Adjustable Rate Mortgage

A mortgage loan that carries a variable interest rate. The rate can (and usually does) vary throughout the term of the loan, making the monthly amount due unpredictable. Learn more about the different types of ARMs at Investopedia.

As-is Clause

A clause in a purchase contract that stipulates a property will be sold without repairs.

Asset Waste

A property owner’s misuse of land or structures that causes a deterioration of that property’s value.

Automated Valuation Model/AVM

Performed by an electronic algorithm, these assessments are based almost entirely on public information and comparables. AVM products do not account for the actual condition or location of the property, zoning, or any past upgrades, unless they are listed on public record. Zillow’s Zestimate is an example of an AVM.

Automatic Temporary Restraining Order/ATRO

A court order that automatically and immediately takes effect upon serving a summons for divorce. ATROs protect both spouses by preventing either from engaging in certain behaviors that might result in sabotage.


Figuratively, a body of attorneys (as opposed to a “bench,” which is a body of judges). Bars are regulated by local bar associations which are committed to promoting and maintaining the practice of law by developing and enforcing ethical guidelines and rules, providing ongoing training and seminars, and providing a social and professional network for attorneys.


Figuratively, a body of judges.


A separate trial conducted to settle a smaller matter within a larger case.


The act of one joint property owner purchasing the equity interest of the other joint owner.


The CARES Act is a mortgage forbearance program that allows homeowners to pause their loan payments for up to 360 days during the 2020/2021 coronavirus pandemic.

CDLP/Certified Divorce Lending Professional

A mortgage lender who has been specially trained and certified to navigate complicated and/or contentious real estate transactions during a divorce. The CDLP typically works with the spouse who wants to keep the home.


Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert: a real estate agent who has been specially trained and certified to navigate complicated and/or contentious real estate transactions while the homeowners are embroiled in a divorce. The CDRE may or may not be court-appointed.

Chain of Title

The historical progression of a property’s ownership; each owner represents one link in the chain.

Cloud on Title

Any document or claim that calls to question the right of a person or persons to the sole ownership of a property’s title. For instance, a cloud will appear on title if a construction lien is placed against a property for the purpose of collecting payment for work performed on that property. Learn more about title problems that can snag your home closing.

Commingled Asset

Separately owned funds or property that become mixed with someone else’s personal or jointly-owned funds or property. In situations involving divorce real estate, a commingled asset most often refers to a home or land purchased by one spouse before the marriage, which later becomes community property because the other spouse’s funds were used to make mortgage or tax payments or cover the cost of repairs or upgrades.


A person appointed by the government to preside over the administration of laws of a certain subject matter (similar to a judge).

Community Property/Marital Property

Generally, property acquired during marriage using joint funds.

Comparable Market Analysis/CMA

An estimate provided by a real estate agent. The assessment is based primarily on comparable properties and information found in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). It may or may not include a cursory visual inspection of the property, and typically does not include measurements, permits or zoning research. Learn more about CMAs.


A comparison of similar properties based on location, square footage, age, condition and other factors that help determine the approximate value of a home.

Conflict Spectrum

A scale that measures the tension in a divorcing couple’s relationship. Learn more about the Conflict Spectrum.


A formal action meant to punish an individual for not obeying a court order.


A clause that allows a buyer or seller to cancel a real estate contract if certain conditions are/are not met. For instance, an inspection contingency means that the buyer is willing to buy the house if the home inspection results are satisfactory to the buyer. A seller might include a contingency to find a replacement home. This allows the seller time to find a new home, and if they cannot find one within the alloted time frame, then the seller could have the right to back out of the contract. Learn more about mortgage contingencies.

Contingent Repairs

Repairs that must be made before a purchase contract can close. Repair contingencies typically include major repair items that could put the value of the home at risk or threaten the health and safety of the occupantsExamples of contingent repairs required for FHA, VA, and USDA-backed loans.


The ownership transfer of real property from one party to another, such as through a deed. Learn more about conveyances: Learn more about conveyance.


An official tribunal that is presided over by a judge. Sometimes, the judge is referred to as the court.


Department of Child Support Services

Debt-to-Income Ratio/DTI

The measure of a person’s current income vs. the amount of debt they carry. This comparison is used to measure a buyer’s ability to afford a loan. Learn more about how your debt-to-income ratio can affect your ability to keep your home after divorce.


A court’s final judgment. In the case of divorce, a decree is the judge’s official order granting—and laying out the terms for—a divorce.


The official document that transfers ownership of a property from one party to the next. There are several types of deeds, but the one most commonly used in a divorce proceeding is the quitclaim deedLearn about the different types of real estate deeds.


Failure to repay a debt.


The person against whom a case is filed.

Deferred Principal Balance

A type of loan modification in which a balloon payment of deferred principal is due upon the sale of the home.

Deposit Account

Typically, a checking, savings, or money market account.


Refers to the act of disposing of a home, such as through a standard sale, an ownership transfer, or by walking away from the mortgage voluntarily (also known as a “strategic foreclosure”.


The dissolving of a marriage; divorce.


In California, the computer program that calculates child support and temporary spousal support.


Date of marriage.


Date of separation.

Dual Agency

An agent’s simultaneous representation of both a buyer and the seller of a single property. This is legal in most jurisdictions, but has ethical grey areas since the agent benefits from both sides regardless of whether the buyer or the seller feel their best interests are being met.


Domestic violence temporary restraining order.

Dwelling Exclusion/Kickout Order

An order removing one spouse from the family residence.


To unlawfully trespass onto another person’s land or possessions. In real estate, it usually refers to a structure that is built partially or completely over another person’s property boundaries.


An encumbrance is anything that restricts a property owner from full, “unencumbered” use of their land. Encumbrances result in clouds on a property’s title and may affect the resale value of said property. Encumbrances are typically liens, easements, restrictions, and encroachments.

Equal Distribution

A 50/50 split of assets and debts.


The act of making things equal. In divorce, an equalization payment may be made by one spouse to the other in order to balance the value of the assets they each keep in the settlement.

Equitable Distribution

A way to split assets and debts that is fair to both parties. Equitable distribution takes into account factors that would not necessarily result in a 50/50 split.


The value of a home minus any monies that need to be paid when the property is sold. More information on calculating equity

Escrow Credit

A sum paid by a seller to a buyer—or a buyer to a seller—to cover certain repair bills or closing costs. Escrow credits are built into a real estate contract and don’t change the agreed-upon selling price of the property. Learn more about how credits work.


Documentation and testimony which proves or disproves facts to the court.

Ex Parte

involving only one side; solely for the benefit of one side. An ex parte divorce is granted when one spouse can’t or won’t attend proceedings.

Ex Parte Communication

Communication with a judge that excludes the opposing party or their attorney. It can also describe communication by one attorney to the opposing party without that party’s counsel present. In the case of a CDRE, ex parte communication would be any case-related communication that takes place between that agent and only one spouse which would be relevant to, but excludes, the other spouse.

Fair Market Value/FMV

FMV is the price buyers are actually willing to pay for a property, regardless of the property’s official valuation. Learn more about fair market value.

Fannie Mae

Federal National Mortgage Association: A government-sponsored enterprise that helps low- to moderate-income buyers obtain mortgages by buying and guaranteeing mortgages from large retail banks through the secondary mortgage market. Learn how Fannie Mae works.


A type of government loan that helps low-income buyers and buyers with low credit scores, short sales, foreclosures, or bankruptcies in their history to acquire their first homes. FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Learn more about FHA loans.

FICO Score

A type of credit score that is used to determine a borrower’s ability to repay a loan. When determining creditworthiness, FICO scores incorporate the following buyer behaviors: payment history, debt level, types of credit used, length of credit history, and number of new credit accounts opened. FICO scores are used by the three largest credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

Fiduciary Duty

One person’s responsibility to act in the best interest of another. In real estate, an agent’s fiduciary duty typically involves selling a client’s property for the best possible price, or helping a client buy a property for the lowest possible price. In each case, the agent is expected to adhere to the highest ethical standards and operate with the utmost care, integrity, honesty and loyalty. More information on fiduciary duty.

Final Declaration of Disclosure/FDD/FDOD

a detailed final inventory of assets and debts that must be submitted to the court at or near the end of a divorce proceeding.


Family Law Attorney’s Real Property Lien: A claim against community property that ensures payment of attorney’s fees.


Fair Market Rent, or Fair Market Rental Value, is the estimate of what a property might be worth in terms of rental income. Fair market value can be determined by the property owner, but a list is also calculated and published by HUD.

Forbearance (Mortgage)

From Wikipedia: Forbearance, in the context of a mortgage process, is a special agreement between the lender and the borrower to delay a foreclosure. Learn more about the pros and cons of mortgage forbearance under the 2020 CARES Act.

Force Majeure

a contract clause that resolves both parties of liability or obligation when an unforeseeable event or circumstance occurs that is beyond the control of the parties involved. A force majeure can be either an act of God or an act of man, as long as the event could not be avoided by due diligence and care.

Freddie Mac

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation: A government-sponsored enterprise that helps low- to moderate-income buyers obtain mortgages by buying and guaranteeing mortgages from small thrift banks through the secondary mortgage market. Learn more about Freddie Mac.

Guardian ad Litem/GAL

A court-appointed person who steps in to act on behalf of a child or incapacitated person in legal actions.


Home Energy Renovation Opportunity: A financing program geared toward helping homeowners make energy- and water- efficient improvements to their homes. HERO loans are attached to the mortgage as a tax lien, which means that the balance either needs to be paid off at the time of sale, or passed on to the new homeowner. HERO is a type of PACE loan. Things to know about buying or selling a PACE property.


Income and expense declaration.

Ilumni Institute

An organization dedicated to teaching real estate professionals how to support family law attorneys through effective management of divorce real estate transactions. The Ilumni Institute issues the CDRE designation to Realtors who have successfully completed the training. Learn more about the Ilumni Institute.


In Regard to the Marriage Of. The IRMO acronym is typically found in the captions or subtitles of divorce orders and other such paperwork, especially when they are handwritten.


The act of multiple parties joining together on the same side of the same lawsuit, or the act of combining two or more causes in one lawsuit. The former is called a joinder of parties, the latter is called a joinder of actions.


A court’s final decree. In the case of divorce, a judgment is the presiding judge’s official order granting—and laying out the terms for—a divorce. Alt. spelling: judgement.

Legal Ethics/Attorney’s Ethics

An official code of responsibility that all attorneys must adhere to, especially when representing clients. See also: The State Bar of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct.


A claim against property designed to secure a debt. For instance, a home remodeler might place a mechanic’s lien on your home so that he can recoup costs if you fail to pay his final invoice (he recoups costs by inserting himself into the equity stream of your home). Once his invoice is paid, the lien is released via a written waiver. Other common liens include tax liens, mortgage liens, HOA liens, and judgment liens. More information on real estate liens.

Lien Discharge

Discharge happens when the IRS removes a lien from a property so that the property may transfer to a new owner free of that lien.

Limited Scope Representation

When an attorney represents a client for only one part of a legal matter, but not the entire matter. Examples of when you might use limited scope representation.

Lis Pendens

A notice filed with the court that states a lawsuit has been filed against a piece of real estate. A lis pendens typically challenges the title of the property or attempts to establish a claimed ownership interest in it.

Loan Modification

A type of mortgage restructure that makes it easier for a borrower in financial crisis to repay the loan. Loan modifications can hinder a borrower’s credit.

Mandatory Settlement Conference/MSC

a mandatory meeting of all parties involved in a case that is meant to explore different settlement options.


Multiple Listing Service: An electronic database of homes listed for sale. Your agent’s MLS will be more accurate and up-to-date than public systems like Zillow or, but may not include as broad a search range. Homebuyers can only access the MLS through a licensed real estate agent.


An entity who lends money for the purpose of purchasing real estate; the mortgage lending institution.


An entity who accepts a loan for the purpose of purchasing real estate; the borrower.


Types of requests to the court to make a decision on a legal matter. RFO: Request for Orders; OSC: Order to Show Cause.

Negative Amortization

A feature of some loan products that results in an increase in principal balance over time. Negative amortization happens when scheduled monthly payments are not sufficient to cover interest, so the interest owed is tacked onto the principal balance. Learn more about negative amortization.


An arrangement where the children of divorce continue to live in the family home while the parents take turns moving in and out.

Net Proceeds

The cash payout a seller receives at the close of escrow. Typically, the difference between the selling price of the home and the costs involved in selling it, such as mortgage payoffs, taxes, commissions, and closing fees.

Occupying Spouse/In Spouse

The spouse who remains in the home during or after a divorce.


A direction, rule, or regulation set forth by the court.

Out-spouse/Non-occupying Spouse

The spouse who moves out of the home when the couple decides to separate.


Principal and Interest: typically, the largest portion of your house payment.

P&L/Profit and Loss Statement

An accounting document that summarizes the financial details of a business. The level of detail contained in a P&L can provide an auditor with a fairly accurate measure of the health of a business.

P&L/Profit and Loss Statement, Audited

A profit and loss statement that has been thoroughly reviewed for errors and misinformation by a professional CPA.


Property Assessed Clean Energy programs: A series of clean energy renovation loans. PACE loans are attached to the mortgage as a tax lien, which means that the balance needs to be paid off at the time of sale or passed on to the new homeowner. Things to know about buying or selling a PACE property.


The people involved in a case. Each individual litigant is referred to as a party. In a divorce case, the litigants (parties) are the husband and wife; when referenced together, they are referred to as parties.


The four elements that make up the total value of a mortgage payment with impounds: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Buyers and lenders both review PITI to determine whether a buyer is a good risk for a loan. Things to know about PITI…


The person who initiates a case.

Pocket Listing

A real estate listing that is offered to a private network, such a group of agents or investors, but never offered to the public at large.

Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure/PDD or PDOD

An initial statement of assets and debts that each divorcing party must file at the beginning of a divorce proceeding.

Pro Per/Pro Se/In Propria Persona

A person who represents themselves in a legal proceeding.

Property Profile

A document that provides an overview of the ownership and financial status of a property. A property profile can expose certain loans and liens that exist on the property's title.


Qualified Domestic Relations Order/Domestic Relations Order/Court Order Acceptable for Processing: All of these refer to court orders that split one spouse’s pension or retirement funds between both spouses. Learn more about COAP.

Quasi-Community Property

Property acquired in a non-community property state by either spouse that would have been considered community property if the couple had been domicilied in a community property state. In California, quasi-community property is treated as community property.

Quitclaim Deed

A document that terminates a person’s interest in (or claim to) a property. A quitclaim is typically used to transfer ownership within a family, often from one spouse to another during divorce. With a quitclaim, the person is literally quitting their claim to any rights to the property.

Res Judicata

A lawsuit that once completed cannot be contested again.

Reservation of Jurisdiction

When the court retains the authority to step in and resolve any future disputes relating to a particular issue in a settled case. The court may reserve jurisdiction when it’s not clear whether one or both parties will follow through with the terms of the judgment.


The intentional destruction of property, proceedings, or any other aspect of a divorce proceeding, typically for the purpose of destroying one or both spouses’ equity position(s) in the property.


A penalty or punishment designed to ensure obedience to a law.

Schedule of Assets and Debts

A detailed list of items and their values that a couple owns or owes money for.

Special Master

Someone appointed by the court to assist with a particular issue.

Status Quo

To keep affairs in their current state.

Statutory Repair

A mandatory repair that must be completed in order to bring a building up to a reasonable standard.


An agreement made between parties which is submitted to the court for approval. It eliminates the need to go before a judge and ask for a ruling on an issue that the parties have already agreed upon.

Temporary Restraining Order/TRO

A short-term restraining order that typically only lasts a few days. The purpose of a TRO is to ensure parties maintain a certain status until the court can determine whether to issue an injunction.

Termination of Marital Status

An order that ends a marriage.


The official document that describes the manner in which ownership of a property is held. See also: Common methods of holding title.


The conversion of separate property into community property, and vice versa.

Trier of Fact

The judge.


A person who verifies the risks of lending to a borrower/home buyer. Underwriters review the buyer’s credit history; order the home appraisal; verify income, employment, and savings; and calculate the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio. Underwriters work on behalf of the lender.


Investopedia defines underwriting as, “…the process through which an individual or institution takes on financial risk for a fee. The risk most typically involves loans, insurance, or investments.” Learn more about underwriting.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdictional Enforcement Act/UCCJEA

A law that determines which courts have jurisdiction over child custody matters.


A type of government loan that helps veterans acquire homes at favorable rates and with no down payment. VA loans are partially insured by the Department of Federal Affairs. Learn more about VA loans on Investopedia and on Bankrate


The process of identifying how much a property is worth. Valuations can be determined by automated systems (AVMs), appraisers, or real estate agents. When valuation is provided by a real estate agent, it’s called a CMAMore information about real estate valuations.

Void Marriage

A term that describes a marriage that has no legal validity, due to specific circumstances.

Voir Dire

The questioning of someone who is being vetted as an expert witness to determine competency.

Voluntary Settlement Conference/VSC

a voluntary meeting of all parties involved in a case that is meant to explore different settlement options.

Wage Assignment

A court order requiring an employer to withhold support payments from a person’s wages. Sometimes referred to as attaching or garnishing wages.


A written regulation that defines how property in specific geographic zones can be used. Learn more about zoning ordinances.

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