Glossary O

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 formal protest made by a party over testimony or evidence that the other side tries to introduce.


Law or duty that requires parties to follow their agreement. An obligation or debt may be created by a judgment or contract, like child support.


The person, state agency, or institution owed a debt (usually money) like child support (also called “custodial party” if the money is owed to the person with primary custody of a child).


The person that must pay child support or perform some other financial obligation.


An act that violates (breaks) the law. (See also crime, public offense.)

Office Of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)

The federal agency responsible for administering the nationwide child support program.


Amount of money taken from a parent’s state or federal income tax refund before he or she receives it, or from an administrative payment like federal retirement benefits, to pay a child support debt.


A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court in appellate cases. Because a case may be heard by 3 or more judges in the appellate court, the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges completely agree on the result, 1 judge will write the opinion for all. If all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based on the majority view, and 1 member of the majority will write the opinion. The judges that do not agree with the majority may write their own dissenting or concurring opinions to state their views. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law the majority used to decide the case. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the majority opinion, but offers comment or clarification or a completely different reason for reaching the same result. Only the majority opinion can be used as binding precedent in future cases. (See also precedent.)

Oral Argument

The part of a trial when lawyers summarize their position in court and also answer the judge’s questions.


(1) Decision of a judicial officer ; (2) a directive of the court, on a matter relating to the main proceedings, that decides a preliminary point or directs some steps in the proceedings. Generally used to invalidate a prior conviction, for example, an order issued after a hearing where a prior conviction is found invalid because certain legal standards weren’t met during the time of trial and conviction. Or to set a fee, for example, an order telling a defendant to pay back the county for costs for a court-appointed attorney. Or to show cause, for example, an order to appear in court to give reasons why an action can’t, should not have been, or has not been carried out. (See also court order, support order.)


A regulation made by a local government to enforce, control, or limit certain activities.

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