Glossary J

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.


Joint Physical Custody

A type of court order in which a child spends about the same amount of time living with both parents.


An official of the judicial branch of government with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. The term “judge” may also refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices.


(1) The official decision of a court that resolves the dispute between the parties to a lawsuit; (2) the official decision or finding of a judge or administrative agency hearing officer about the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also known as a “decree” or “order,” and may include “findings of fact and conclusions of law”; (3) the final decision of the judge stating which party has won the case and the terms of the decision. Can be “n.o.v.,” which means a ruling in favor of 1 party even though there had been a verdict for the other party, or “summary,” which means a court’s decision before a trial saying that no facts are disputed in the case and that 1 party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. (Compare disposition, verdict.)


Belonging to or appropriate to the office of a judge; relates to the administration of justice.

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council of California is the constitutionally mandated body responsible for improving the administration of justice in the state. The council is made up of judges, court executives, attorneys, and legislators. It was established to standardize court administration, practice, and procedure by adopting and enforcing court rules.

Judicial Council Forms

The Judicial Council of California has created many forms (called “Judicial Council forms”) to standardize the preparation of court documents. People involved in lawsuits (also called “litigants”) must use Judicial Council forms that are labeled “mandatory” and may use forms that are labeled “optional.”

Judicial District

The state is divided into judicial districts that define the geographical area of each court’s authority.

Judicial Officer

Judges, referees, and commissioners that make court decisions as a judge.

Judicial Positions

The judge, referee, and commissioner positions authorized by the state Legislature for a particular court jurisdiction.


(1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; (2) the geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases; (3) the territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.


A person younger than the legal age of adulthood, which usually is 18 years but in some cases is 21 years. (See also minor.)

Juvenile Court

That part of the superior court that handles delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases involving minors.


Generally, a bringing or joining together. For example, plaintiffs joining in a suit, or a joining of actions or defense.

Joint Custody

A court order that gives both parents legal and physical custody of a child.

Joint Legal Custody

A type of court order that allows either or both parents to make important decisions about a child’s health, education, and well being.

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