Glossary A

Glossary of Legal Definitions

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The following list of legal definitions taken from the California Court's website may be useful in your California Family Law case. For further definitions in other areas of law not covered here, please visit the California Court's website.



When someone that loses at least part of a case asks a higher court (called the appellate court) to review the decision and say if it was right or not. This action is called “to appeal” or “to take an appeal.” The person that appeals is called the “appellant.” The other party is called the “appellee.”


The person who brings the appeal.


Going to court, or a legal paper that says you will participate in the court process.

Appellate Court

A court that can review how the law was used to decide a case in a lower court.


a person that answers an appeal in higher court.


when a person that isn’t involved in the case looks at the evidence =, hears the arguments, and makes a decision. (compare with mediation)


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


Proven to be true.


When someone tries to or threatens to hurt you. Can include violence but is not battery. (see battery.)


Choosing someone to do something. Used in cases- when the court uses a calendar to give (“assign”) cases to judges.

Assignment of Support Rights

when a person that gets public assistance (money from the government) agrees to give the state any child support they get in the future. The person gets money and other benefits from the state. So the state can use part of the child support to pay for the cost of that public assistance.


(1) Document attached to court papers to give more information; (2) A way to collect a judgment: by getting a court order that says you can take a piece of property.


Someone that is qualified to represent clients in court and to give them legal advice. (See counsel and lawyer.)

Attorney of Record

The lawyer whose name is listed in a case as representing someone in the case.


When records or accounts are looked at to check that they are right and complete.

Automated Voice Response (AVR) system

phone system that gives information to people over the phone.


When a parent leaves a child without enough care, supervision, support, or parental contact for an excessive period of time.


A summary of what a court or government agency does.

Abstract Judgment

Summary of the court’s final decision that can be used as a lien if you file it with the county recorder.


The total amount of child support payments that you owe or that are late.


The person that is charged with a crime and has to go to criminal court. (See defendant)


A lawsuit for a divorce, an annulment, a legal separation, or paternity suit in family law.

Active Status

A case that is in court but isn’t “settled” or “decided” has active status. (see disposition pending.)

Ad Litem

Latin meaning “For this lawsuit.”

Administrative Procedure

the way an executive government agency makes and enforces support orders without going to court.

Administrative Evidence

Evidence that can be legally and properly used in court.


The way to make the relationship between a parent and child legal when they are not related by blood.


Engaging in sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse. In some states, this may constitute grounds for divorce.

Adverse Witness

A person called to testify for the other side. (see hostile witness)


A written statement of facts that someone swears to under oath. Affidavits usually accompany motions and are used to avoid having to personally appear in court to testify. However, sometimes you might have to appear in court even though you have prepared an affidavit.


to make a serious statement.


When an appellate court says that the lower court’s decision was correct.


Money the court orders one spouse to pay to the ex-spouse.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

methods of resolving disputes without official court proceedings. These methods include mediation and arbitration.


to add to or change a claim that has been filed in court.


a legal action that says your marriage was never legally valid because of unsound mind, incest, bigamy, being too young to consent, fraud, force, or physical incapacity. (see Nullity of Marriage)

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