Glossary C

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.



Postponed, or put off to a later date.

Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction

Theory that only one support order should be valid between the same people at a time. And when a court hears a child support case, it can add to and change that order. The court of continuing exclusive jurisdiction (CCEJ) has control over a support case until another court takes it away. This is defined in the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). (See Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.)


(1) An agreement between 2 or more people to do or not to do a particular thing; (2) an agreement between 2 or more people that makes, changes, or ends a legal relationship.


To give the title to property to someone else. Or to make known or communicate.


(1) Fees and charges that a party pays to file and present a court case or to enforce a judgment; (2) money won in a civil suit to pay for expenses.


One or more lawyers that represent a client. Also, legal advice. (See attorney, lawyer.)


A judge or group of judges whose job is to hear cases and carry out justice. (See bench.)

Court Investigator (Guardianship Of The Person)

Someone employed by the court to investigate a guardianship case where the person who wants to be the guardian is a relative of the child. The court investigator writes a report with recommendations to the judge and any other relevant information.

Court Order

A legal decision made by a court that commands or directs that something be done or not done. Can be made by a judge, commissioner, court referee, or magistrate.

Court Reporter

Someone that writes down, word for word, what is said in court. They generally use a stenographic machine, shorthand, or a recording device. You can ask for a copy of this record.

Court Stamp

An raised seal press or stamp that prints or stamps a seal on court papers. It might say the name of the judicial district or the consolidated city and county. You can read the stamp in photocopies.

Court Trial

A trial without a jury. A judge decides the case.


The testimony a witness gives when the other side’s lawyer is asking the questions at a trial, hearing, or deposition.

Custodial Parent

The parent that has primary care, custody, and control of the child(ren).


(1) the care and control of children. See child custody; (2) when the court imprisons a person after they are found guilty of a crime; (3) when someone is under the physical control of the court to make sure they go to court when they’re supposed to.

Custody Mediation

A meeting with a trained, neutral third party who helps the parents try to agree on a parenting plan for their children. Click here for more information on custody mediation.

Custody Order

A court order that says who a child will live with and who should make decisions about health care, education, and other important things.


A person chosen by the court and given the power to hear and make decisions in certain kinds of legal matters.

Common Law

Laws that come from court decisions and not from statutes (“codes”) or constitutions.

Community Obligations

Community obligations are the debts that a husband and wife or registered domestic partners OWE TOGETHER. In most cases that includes anything that you still owe on any debts either of you took on during the time you were living together as husband and wife or as registered domestic partners. (If you bought furniture on credit while you were married or in a registered domestic partnership and living together, the unpaid balance is a part of your community obligations.)

Community Property

Community property is everything that a husband and wife or registered domestic partners OWN TOGETHER. In most cases that includes: (1) Money or benefits like pensions and stock options that you now have which either of you earned during the time you were living together as husband and wife or as registered domestic partners; and (2) Anything either of you bought with money earned during that period.

Community Property State

A state where all property (and typically income) acquired during the marriage is presumed to belong equally to both parties.


Person that wants to start a court case against another person. In a civil case, the complainant is the plaintiff. In a criminal case, the complainant is the state.


In civil cases, a written statement filed by the plaintiff that starts a case. Says what the plaintiff thinks the defendant did and asks the court for help. Also called the “initial pleading” or “petition.” A complaint is also used to start a criminal case.


Required by legal process or by law.

Confidential Record

Information in a court case that is not available to the public. (See public record, sealed record.)

Conform Copies

To get or file an original document


Someone that can’t take care of themselves and has a caretaker (called the “conservator”) that the court picked.


Someone picked by the court to either take care of someone that can’t take care of themselves (called a “conservatee”) or take care of the property of the conservatee, or both.

Conservator Of The Estate

A person or business picked by a judge to handle the financial matters of a person when the judge decides that the person (called the “conservatee”) can’t do it.

Conservator Of The Person

A person or business picked by a judge to care for and protect a person when the judge decides that the person (called the “conservatee”) can’t do it.


A court proceeding where a judge appoints a caretaker for an adult that is unable to care for him or herself.

Consolidation Of Actions

When at least 2 cases that involve the same people are grouped together. (Compare with coordination of cases.)


The central law of our country that sets up the creation, character, and organization of its power and how that power is exercised. The rules and principles, descriptions of the government’s power, and the main rights that the people of a country or state have.


The act of willfully violating a court order. Nonpayment of support when a spouse has the means to pay such support frequently gives rise to contempt adjudications in divorce cases.


A kind of case where both sides present evidence.


Putting off a court case to a later date. (See adjournment; compare with recess.)

California Rules of Court

The rules for practices and procedures in California’s state courts.


What is written at the top of all papers (called “pleadings”) given to the court. It says things like the case name, court, and case number.


Stand for Court-Appointed Special Advocates. These are trained court–appointed volunteers


A lawsuit, or complaint filed in court.

Case File

The folder that has the official court papers for a case.

Case Flow Management

How a case is managed from the first paper filed to the final decision.

Case ID

The identification number given to a case by the court.

Case Law

Law made by earlier decisions in similar cases.


The number of cases a judge has in a specific time.

Case Number

Identification number that the court clerk’s office gives a case. This number is on all papers filed in the case. Also called “case ID.”

Certified Copy

An official copy of a paper from a case file that is marked as being true, complete, and a real copy of the original paper.


Someone’s right to object to or fight something in a legal case.


A judge’s office. Also usually where the judge’s clerks work.

Change of Venue

When a civil or criminal case is moved from one court jurisdiction to another. (See venue.)

Child Abuse

Hurting a child physically, sexually or emotionally.

Child Advocate

Someone with special training appointed by the court to help a child in a case.

Child Custody

The rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. A parenting plan must describe the legal custody and physical custody that is in the best interest of the children. This term is also often used to describe who the children live with.

Child Custody Evaluation

An investigation and analysis by an expert of the health, safety, welfare, and best interests of children. It is ordered by a court to help resolve custody and visitation disputes.

Child Custody Mediation

See custody mediation.

Child Maltreatment

Child abuse and/or neglect.

Child Neglect

Not taking good care of a child. Neglect can be physical or emotional.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

State agency that responds to reports of child abuse and neglect. If the agency’s investigations show there is abuse or neglect, they open a child protection case. Then, a case worker makes a plan to help the family.

Child Support

A sum of money to be paid by one parent to the other to assist with the support of the couple’s children.

Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Agency

Agency that exists in every state to find parents that don’t have custody (called “noncustodial parents,” or “NCPs”). Or to find the person assumed to be the father of a child (called a “putative father,” or “PF”). Makes, enforces, and changes child support. Collects and gives out child support money. Also known as an “IV-D agency.” (See IV-D.)

Circumstantial Evidence

All evidence that is indirect. Testimony not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in dispute.

Clerk of Court

A person chosen by the judges to help manage cases, keep court records, deal with financial matters, and give other administrative support.


The law created by statutes. For example, the California Code of Civil Procedure, California Civil Code.


The act of living with someone. In some states, cohabitation may be grounds for the termination of support. In addition, some husbands and wives may agree when settling their case that cohabitation for a period of time (such as six months on a substantially continuous basis) will cause support to be terminated.

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