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LEGAL TERMS

ABANDONMENT (OF A CHILD)

A parent's failure to provide any financial assistance to or communicate with his or her child over a period of time. When this happens, a court may deem the ch... (more...)
A parent's failure to provide any financial assistance to or communicate with his or her child over a period of time. When this happens, a court may deem the child abandoned by that parent and order that person's parental rights terminated. Abandonment also describes situations in which a child is physically abandoned -- for example, left on a doorstep, delivered to a hospital or put in a trash can. Physically abandoned children are usually placed in orphanages and made available for adoption.

MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME

An annual income figure for which there are as many families with incomes below that level as there are above that level. The Census Bureau publishes median fam... (more...)
An annual income figure for which there are as many families with incomes below that level as there are above that level. The Census Bureau publishes median family income figures for each state and for different family sizes. A debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income in his or her state must pass the means test in order to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and must commit all disposable income to a five-year repayment plan if filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

MISUNDERSTANDING

A mistake by both spouses in a marriage that can serve as grounds for an annulment. For example, if one spouse went into the marriage wanting children while the... (more...)
A mistake by both spouses in a marriage that can serve as grounds for an annulment. For example, if one spouse went into the marriage wanting children while the other did not, they have a misunderstanding that will be judged serious enough for a court to terminate the marriage.

LAWFUL ISSUE

Formerly, statutes governing wills used this phrase to specify children born to married parents, and to exclude those born out of wedlock. Now, the phrase means... (more...)
Formerly, statutes governing wills used this phrase to specify children born to married parents, and to exclude those born out of wedlock. Now, the phrase means the same as issue and 'lineal descendant.'

EMANCIPATION

The act of freeing someone from restraint or bondage. For example, on January 1, 1863, slaves in the confederate states were declared free by an executive order... (more...)
The act of freeing someone from restraint or bondage. For example, on January 1, 1863, slaves in the confederate states were declared free by an executive order of President Lincoln, known as the 'Emancipation Proclamation.' After the Civil War, this emancipation was extended to the entire country and made law by the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. Nowadays, emancipation refers to the point at which a child is free from parental control. It occurs when the child's parents no longer perform their parental duties and surrender their rights to the care, custody and earnings of their minor child. Emancipation may be the result of a voluntary agreement between the parents and child, or it may be implied from their acts and ongoing conduct. For example, a child who leaves her parents' home and becomes entirely self-supporting without their objection is considered emancipated, while a child who goes to stay with a friend or relative and gets a part-time job is not. Emancipation may also occur when a minor child marries or enters the military.

ATTORNEY FEES

The payment made to a lawyer for legal services. These fees may take several forms: hourly per job or service -- for example, $350 to draft a will contingency (... (more...)
The payment made to a lawyer for legal services. These fees may take several forms: hourly per job or service -- for example, $350 to draft a will contingency (the lawyer collects a percentage of any money she wins for her client and nothing if there is no recovery), or retainer (usually a down payment as part of an hourly or per job fee agreement). Attorney fees must usually be paid by the client who hires a lawyer, though occasionally a law or contract will require the losing party of a lawsuit to pay the winner's court costs and attorney fees. For example, a contract might contain a provision that says the loser of any lawsuit between the parties to the contract will pay the winner's attorney fees. Many laws designed to protect consumers also provide for attorney fees -- for example, most state laws that require landlords to provide habitable housing also specify that a tenant who sues and wins using that law may collect attorney fees. And in family law cases -- divorce, custody and child support -- judges often have the power to order the more affluent spouse to pay the other spouse's attorney fees, even where there is no clear victor.

ADOPT

(1) To assume the legal relationship of parent to another person's child. See also adoption. (2) To approve or accept something -- for example, a legislative bo... (more...)
(1) To assume the legal relationship of parent to another person's child. See also adoption. (2) To approve or accept something -- for example, a legislative body may adopt a law or an amendment, a government agency may adopt a regulation or a party to a lawsuit may adopt a particular argument.

WRONGFUL DEATH RECOVERIES

After a wrongful death lawsuit, the portion of a judgment intended to compensate a plaintiff for having to live without a deceased person. The compensation is i... (more...)
After a wrongful death lawsuit, the portion of a judgment intended to compensate a plaintiff for having to live without a deceased person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided.

CHILD SUPPORT

The entitlement of all children to be supported by their parents until the children reach the age of majority or become emancipated -- usually by marriage, by e... (more...)
The entitlement of all children to be supported by their parents until the children reach the age of majority or become emancipated -- usually by marriage, by entry into the armed forces or by living independently. Many states also impose child support obligations on parents for a year or two beyond this point if the child is a full-time student. If the parents are living separately, they each must still support the children. Typically, the parent who has custody meets his or her support obligation through taking care of the child every day, while the other parent must make payments to the custodial parent on behalf of the child -- usually cash but sometimes other kinds of contributions. When parents divorce, the court almost always orders the non-custodial parent to pay the custodial parent an amount of child support fixed by state law. Sometimes, however, if the parents share physical custody more or less equally, the court will order the higher-income parent to make payments to the lower-income parent.