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LEGAL TERMS

BRIEF

A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party's argument as to why she shoul... (more...)
A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party's argument as to why she should prevail. These arguments must be supported by legal authority and precedent, such as statutes, regulations and previous court decisions. Although it is usually possible to submit a brief to a trial court (called a trial brief), briefs are most commonly used as a central part of the appeal process (an appellate brief). But don't be fooled by the name -- briefs are usually anything but brief, as pointed out by writer Franz Kafka, who defined a lawyer as 'a person who writes a 10,000 word decision and calls it a brief.'

FOREIGN DIVORCE

A divorce obtained in a different state or country from the place where one spouse resides at the time of the divorce. As a general rule, foreign divorces are r... (more...)
A divorce obtained in a different state or country from the place where one spouse resides at the time of the divorce. As a general rule, foreign divorces are recognized as valid if the spouse requesting the divorce became a resident of the state or country granting the divorce, and if both parties consented to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. A foreign divorce obtained by one person without the consent of the other is normally not valid, unless the nonconsenting spouse later acts as if the foreign divorce were valid, for example, by remarrying.

STEPPARENT ADOPTION

The formal, legal adoption of a child by a stepparent who is living with a legal parent. Most states have special provisions making stepparent adoptions relativ... (more...)
The formal, legal adoption of a child by a stepparent who is living with a legal parent. Most states have special provisions making stepparent adoptions relatively easy if the child's noncustodial parent gives consent, is dead or missing, or has abandoned the child.

FAULT DIVORCE

A tradition that required one spouse to prove that the other spouse was legally at fault, to obtain a divorce. The 'innocent' spouse was then granted the divorc... (more...)
A tradition that required one spouse to prove that the other spouse was legally at fault, to obtain a divorce. The 'innocent' spouse was then granted the divorce from the 'guilty' spouse. Today, 35 states still allow a spouse to allege fault in obtaining a divorce. The traditional fault grounds for divorce are adultery, cruelty, desertion, confinement in prison, physical incapacity and incurable insanity. These grounds are also generally referred to as marital misconduct.

MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

A document that provides proof of a marriage, typically issued to the newlyweds a few weeks after they file for the certificate in a county office. Most states ... (more...)
A document that provides proof of a marriage, typically issued to the newlyweds a few weeks after they file for the certificate in a county office. Most states require both spouses, the person who officiated the marriage and one or two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate; often this is done just after the ceremony.

JOINT CUSTODY

An arrangement by which parents who do not live together share the upbringing of a child. Joint custody can be joint legal custody (in which both parents have a... (more...)
An arrangement by which parents who do not live together share the upbringing of a child. Joint custody can be joint legal custody (in which both parents have a say in decisions affecting the child) joint physical custody (in which the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents) or, very rarely, both.

SEPARATE PROPERTY

In community property states, property owned and controlled entirely by one spouse in a marriage. At divorce, separate property is not divided under the state's... (more...)
In community property states, property owned and controlled entirely by one spouse in a marriage. At divorce, separate property is not divided under the state's property division laws, but is kept by the spouse who owns it. Separate property includes all property that a spouse obtained before marriage, through inheritance or as a gift. It also includes any property that is traceable to separate property -- for example, cash from the sale of a vintage car owned by one spouse before marriage-and any property that the spouses agree is separate property. Compare community property and equitable distribution.

NEXT FRIEND

A person, usually a relative, who appears in court on behalf of a minor or incompetent plaintiff, but who is not a party to the lawsuit. For example, children a... (more...)
A person, usually a relative, who appears in court on behalf of a minor or incompetent plaintiff, but who is not a party to the lawsuit. For example, children are often represented in court by their parents as 'next friends.'

CONSUMMATION

The actualization of a marriage. Sexual intercourse is required to 'consummate' a marriage. Failure to do so is grounds for divorce or annulment.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Carpenter v. Carpenter

... Almost twenty years after the entry of a judgment of divorce nisi that provided that the parties' "marital property shall be divided with formula advanced by [Stanley R. Carpenter (husband)]," Patricia E. Carpenter (wife) filed a postdivorce complaint pursuant to GL c. 208, § 34 ...

Wooters v. Wooters

... KATZMANN, J. Can the exercise of stock options be considered as part of gross annual income under a divorce judgment? We consider this question in the context of an appeal from a contempt order. ... [1] Paragraph one (1) of the divorce judgment provided, in relevant part: ...

Vorontsova v. Waronzov

... GRAHAM, J. We are asked to decide whether a judge of the Probate and Family Court erred by failing to recognize, under principles of comity, a Ukrainian divorce certificate purporting to divorce the parties, Svitlana Vorontsova (wife) and Jaroslav Waronzov (husband). ...