Glossary B

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.


Bar or Bar Association

All of the lawyers qualified to practice law. For Example, a state bar includes all lawyers qualified to practice law in that state.


Illegal beating or physical violence or control of a person without their permission. (Compare with assault.)


(1) the desk where a judge sits in court; (2) judges in general or specific judge.

Bench Trial

trial without a jury. The judge decides the case.

Best Interest of the Child (BIC)

the standard that courts use to decide who will take care of the child. Some factors courts look at are: the age of the child, the health of the child, the emotional ties between the parents and the child, the ability of the parents to care for the child, and the child’s ties to school, home, and the community.


To separate the legal issues in a case. For example, sometimes spouses or domestic partners cannot agree on all the issues in a divorce and it is holding up the divorce itself. The parties may want to move ahead with ending the marital status or domestic partnership while other issues remain to be resolved. To do this, a party can ask for a “bifurcation” of marital/partnership status. This means that the court makes a decision on ending your marriage or domestic partnership while other issues remain open and to be decided.

Billing Rate

The rate at which an attorney bills a client for work performed. Many attorneys bill on an hourly basis, charging a certain amount of money per hour. Some attorneys bill per project, regardless of how much or little time it takes to do the work. This is also referred to as “unbundling” fees.


to make yourself or someone else legally responsible for something.

Bind Over

A judge’s decision before a trial that says there is enough evidence for a trial.

Blocked Account

An account with a financial institution in which money or securities are placed. No person may withdraw funds from a blocked account without the court’s permission.


A written presentation of a party’s position that explains why the court should rule in their favor. Lawyers most often submit briefs to argue appeals. Lawyers also submit briefs to support points of law made at the trial court level.

Burden of Proof

When one person in the case has the responsibility to give more evidence than the other person.


All the cases that haven’t been settled or decided in the time the law says they should be.


A person that is in charge of security in the court. Bailiffs are picked by sheriffs or marshals.

Bank Levy

Way to enforce a decision against someone that owes money. The money is taken from their checking or savings account at a bank, savings and loan, thrift institution, or credit union.


The legal way for a business or person to get help when they can’t pay the money they owe. In bankruptcy court, they can get rid of debts paying part of what they owe. There are special bankruptcy judges at these hearings.

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