Glossary M

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 process in which a neutral person (or people) helps people who have a dispute to communicate so they can reach an agreement. (Compare arbitration, neutral evaluation.)

Medical Support

Kind of child support where medical or dental insurance coverage is paid by a parent. Depending on the court order, medical support can be that parent’s only financial obligation, or the parent may also have to pay child supportand/or spousal support.

Memorandum Of Costs

see memorandum of credits, accrued interest, and costs after judgment.

Memorandum Of Credits, Accrued Interest, And Costs After Judgment

In small claims court, a form used to get back your costs for collecting your judgment.

Memorandum To Set

A paper filed by 1 or more parties in a court case saying the case is ready for trial. (See also at-issue memorandum.)


A person under the age of 18 years. (See also juvenile.)


The official (permanent) record of a court proceeding, that tells things like what witnesses appeared, what motions were made, and what findings were reached. (See also transcript.)


A crime that can be punished by up to 1 year in jail. (See also felony.)


Improper performance of an act that may have been lawfully done. (Compare malfeasance, nonfeasance.)


A change or alteration, like modification of a sentence (where the terms of punishment for a defendant are changed) or of a probation order (where a new probation order is issued changing the terms of the original order).

Money Judgment

A specific amount of money awarded by the court to a person as payment for damages (losses or injuries) suffered.


A point or question related to a legal case that usually has no practical importance or relevance to the case. A moot point is a point that can’t be resolved by the judge, is not disputed by either side, or is resolved out of court.


An oral or written request that a party makes to the court for a ruling or an order on a particular point. A “motion to reduce bail” asks the court to lower the amount of bail needed to release the defendant from custody and guarantee that he or she will appear in court when required. A “motion to release on own recognizance (OR)” asks the court to let a defendant go without paying bail if the defendant agrees to appear when the court tells him or her to. A “motion to set” asks the judge to set a date for a future trial. A “motion to quash” asks the court to make something void or ineffective, such as to quash a subpoena.

Minute Order

The courtroom clerk’s written minutes of court proceedings. A minute order is done when a trial judge sits officially, with or without a court reporter, and a clerk keeps minutes of the court session. In this cases, the minute order may be the only record of an oral order made by the judge. Copies of the minute orders are usually kept in the case files and the court clerk’s office. The format of minute orders can vary from court to court. Generally, they include the name of the court, the name of the judge and the court clerk, the case number and names of the parties in the case, the date of the order, the nature of the proceedings, and the court’s ruling. The length of a minute order can be a single page or it can be several pages long.

Motion To Quash Service Of Summons

A legal response that a tenant can file in an unlawful detainer lawsuit if the tenant believes that the landlord did not properly serve the summons and complaint.


To cripple or mutilate in any way; to injure a person in a way that deprives him or her of the use of any limb or other part of his or her body; to seriously wound, disfigure, or disable. (See also mayhem.)


Performance of an act that should not have been done at all. (Compare with misfeasance, nonfeasance.)


Required, ordered.


The unlawful, but unintended killing of a person. Can be voluntary, like when someone is killed unlawfully under circumstances that don’t include a premeditated intent to kill. Or involuntary, like when someone is killed unintentionally as a result of someone else performing another unlawful act or negligently performing a lawful act. (Compare with murder; see also homicide.)

Marital Settlement Agreement

In a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment, a stipulated judgment will often include a marital settlement agreement (MSA). A marital settlement agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse that contains detailed legal wording about how the issues in your case will be handled. It is usually used when there are complicated issues of property, debt, support, or custody that need to be set out in the judgment.


A peace officer that has the power to arrest, to serve legal papers in civil cases and subpoenas and to act as bailiff in the courtroom.


Unlawfully and violently depriving a person of a part of his or her body or disabling, disfiguring, or making it useless (includes injury to eyes, tongue, nose, ears, etc.).

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