Glossary L

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.



(1) A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty, which caused harm to the plaintiff; (2) a legal dispute brought to a court for resolution. (See alsoaction, case.)


A person qualified to represent clients in a court of law and to advise them on legal matters. (See also attorney,counsel.)

Legal Aid Organizations

Organizations that provide free legal advice, representation, and other legal services in noncriminal cases to low-income people.

Legal Custody

A parent’s right and responsibility to make decisions about a child’s health, education and well being. There are two types of legal custody orders: joint legal custody and sole legal custody.

Legal Parent

A person who is recognized by the law as the parent of a child.

Legal Separation

You and your spouse or domestic partner can end your relationship but still remain legally married or partnered, and get court orders on parenting and money issues, with a judgment of legal separation.

Letters Of Conservatorship

A court paper that states that the conservator is authorized to act on the conservatee’s behalf. Also called “Letters.”


To obtain money by legal process through seizure and/or sale of property.

Levying Officer

Sheriff or marshal that is given the power by a writ of execution to levy on a judgment debtor’s property.


False and malicious material that is written or published that is defamatory and hurts a person’s reputation. (Compare slander.)

License Hold

The action taken to prevent someone from renewing their driver’s license until a legal matter is settled.


A claim on property to prevent the sale or transfer of that property until a debt is paid. The lien may be enforced or collected by levying on the property. (See also levy.)

Limited Conservatorship

A conservatorship for developmentally disabled adults.

Limited-Scope Representation

An arrangement with a lawyer to receive help on some parts of a case for a set fee or limited fees. Also called “unbundled legal services” or “unbundling”.

Lis Pendens

Jurisdiction of a court over property until final decision of a case; from the Latin for “a pending suit.”


The parties (sides) involved in a lawsuit.


To conduct or engage in a lawsuit.


A case, controversy, or lawsuit. The people involved in lawsuits (plaintiffs and defendants) are called “litigants.”

Local Child Support Agency

See child support enforcement (CSE) agency.

Local Forms

Courts create local forms to standardize the preparation of documents in their court. Local forms are different from Judicial Council forms. Local forms can usually only be used in the court that adopted the form. Most Judicial Council forms can be used in every Superior Court in California. Judicial Council forms always have “Judicial Council of California” printed in the bottom left corner of the first page. You can usually get local forms at a court clerk’s office or on a court’s web site. Look for “forms” or “court forms.”

Long-Arm Jurisdiction

Legal provision that lets 1 state claim personal jurisdiction over someone that lives in another state. There must be some meaningful connection between the person and the state or district that is claiming jurisdiction in order for the authority of a court or agency to reach beyond its normal jurisdictional border.

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