Glossary D

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.



A court’s judgment or decree that settles a dispute. (See also decree, judgment.)


A sworn, written statement that is used as evidence in court. The statement supports or establishes a fact. The person that makes the declaration certifies or declares under penalty of perjury that the statement is true and correct. The person that makes the declaration is called the “declarant.” The declarant must sign and date the declaration. The declaration must also say where the declaration was signed or that it was made under the laws of the State of California.


To consider or have an opinion. For example, to deem it necessary to do something.


When 1 person hurts another person’s character, fame, or reputation by making false and malicious statements that are not protected by law.


When a defendant in a civil case does not file an answer or other response with the court or go to court when they are supposed to, after being properly notified. This is called being “in default.”

Default Judgment

A court decision in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant doesn’t answer or go to court when they’re supposed to.


In a civil case, the person or organization sued by the plaintiff. In a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.


To omit, leave out, or remove.


In family law, this usually means a child that is financially supported by another person. In juvenile law, this means a minor that is in the custody of the court because he or she was abused, neglected, or molested or is physically dangerous to the public because of a mental or physical disorder.


Written or oral testimony given under oath in front of an authorized third person like a court reporter. Depositions take place outside of court. They allow the parties to get a record of a person’s testimony, or to get testimony from a witness that lives far away. They can help the lawyers prepare their court papers called “pleadings.” (See also discovery.)


A judgment or decision the court makes to end a lawsuit or controversy.

Direct Examination

When a witness testifies and answers questions posed by the party that asked them to testify. (Compare cross-examination.)

Direct Income Withholding

A procedure that orders an employer in another state to withhold support from an employee’s paycheck without having to go through the IV-D agency or court system in that state. With this order, withholding can start right away, unless the obligor doesn’t agree, and no court pleadings are required. (See also income withholding, wage withholding, obligee, obligor.)


The gathering of information (facts, documents, or testimony) before a case goes to trial. Discovery is done in many ways, such as through depositions, interrogatories, or requests for admissions. It can also be done through independent investigation or by talking with the other side’s lawyer.

Dismiss With Prejudice

When a court dismisses a case and will not allow any other suit to be filed on the same claim in the future.

Dismiss Without Prejudice

When a court dismisses a case but will allow other suits to be filed on the same claim.

Disposable Income

What’s left of an employee’s income after making legally required deductions, like taxes. Disposable income is used to decide how much of the employee’s pay will be taken for a garnishment, attachment, or earnings assignment.


When a judge decides (usually voluntarily) not to hear a case. In most cases, this decision has to do with an outside interest of the judge’s that may influence his or her ability to decide the case in a fair and impartial way.


A marriage that is ended by a judge’s decision, also known as a “divorce.” (Compare nullity.)


A common name for a marriage that is legally ended.


A record with the complete history of each case a court hears. It contains short chronological summaries of the court proceedings.

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