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LEGAL TERMS

NEXT OF KIN

The closest relatives, as defined by state law, of a deceased person. Most states recognize the spouse and the nearest blood relatives as next of kin.

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.

CRUELTY

Any act of inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain. Cruelty or mental cruelty is the most frequently used fault ground for divorce because as a practi... (more...)
Any act of inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain. Cruelty or mental cruelty is the most frequently used fault ground for divorce because as a practical matter, courts will accept minor wrongs or disagreements as sufficient evidence of cruelty to justify the divorce.

IN CAMERA

Latin for 'in chambers.' A legal proceeding is 'in camera' when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from t... (more...)
Latin for 'in chambers.' A legal proceeding is 'in camera' when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from the courtroom. Proceedings are often held in camera to protect victims and witnesses from public exposure, especially if the victim or witness is a child. There is still, however, a record made of the proceeding, typically by a court stenographer. The judge may decide to seal this record if the material is extremely sensitive or likely to prejudice one side or the other.

PETITIONER

A person who initiates a lawsuit. A synonym for plaintiff, used almost universally in some states and in others for certain types of lawsuits, most commonly div... (more...)
A person who initiates a lawsuit. A synonym for plaintiff, used almost universally in some states and in others for certain types of lawsuits, most commonly divorce and other family law cases.

DIVORCE AGREEMENT

An agreement made by a divorcing couple regarding the division of property, custody and visitation of the children, alimony or child support. The agreement must... (more...)
An agreement made by a divorcing couple regarding the division of property, custody and visitation of the children, alimony or child support. The agreement must be put in writing, signed by the parties and accepted by the court. It becomes part of the divorce decree and does away with the necessity of having a trial on the issues covered by the agreement. A divorce agreement may also be called a marital settlement agreement, marital termination agreement or settlement agreement.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

An order from a judge that directs a party to come to court and convince the judge why she shouldn't grant an action proposed by the other side or by the judge ... (more...)
An order from a judge that directs a party to come to court and convince the judge why she shouldn't grant an action proposed by the other side or by the judge on her own (sua sponte). For example, in a divorce, at the request of one parent a judge might issue an order directing the other parent to appear in court on a particular date and time to show cause why the first parent should not be given sole physical custody of the children. Although it would seem that the person receiving an order to show cause is at a procedural disadvantage--she, after all, is the one who is told to come up with a convincing reason why the judge shouldn't order something--both sides normally have an equal chance to convince the judge to rule in their favor.

AMICUS CURIAE

Latin for 'friend of the court.' This term describes a person or organization that is not a party to a lawsuit as plaintiff or defendant but that has a strong i... (more...)
Latin for 'friend of the court.' This term describes a person or organization that is not a party to a lawsuit as plaintiff or defendant but that has a strong interest in the case and wants to get its two cents in. For example, the ACLU often submits materials to support a person who claims a violation of civil rights even though that person is represented by a lawyer.

VISITATION RIGHTS

The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. The court will deny visitation... (more...)
The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. The court will deny visitation rights only if it decides that visitation would hurt the child so much that the parent should be kept away.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Jones

... Facing possible involuntary termination of their rights as requested in that petition, respondent and the father instead voluntarily released the child to the Department of Human Services under the Michigan Adoption Code, MCL 710.21 et seq., on June 20, 2007. ...

National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Governor of Mich.

... THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE ADOPTION OF THE AMENDMENT. ... [33]. Accordingly, the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the amendment indicate that the lead proponents of the amendment worked hard to convince voters to adopt it. ...

In re MKK

... Respondent cross-appeals. [4]. 139 II. INTERPLAY OF THE ADOPTION CODE AND PATERNITY ACT. ... 1, 19, 22, 747 NW2d 883 (2008). C. THE ADOPTION CODE. Adoption is strictly statutory. The Adoption Code was designed for the following general purposes: ...