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LEGAL TERMS

COMPLAINT

Papers filed with a court clerk by the plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit by setting out facts and legal claims (usually called causes of action). In some states a... (more...)
Papers filed with a court clerk by the plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit by setting out facts and legal claims (usually called causes of action). In some states and in some types of legal actions, such as divorce, complaints are called petitions and the person filing is called the petitioner. To complete the initial stage of a lawsuit, the plaintiff's complaint must be served on the defendant, who then has the opportunity to respond by filing an answer. In practice, few lawyers prepare complaints from scratch. Instead they use -- and sometimes modify -- pre-drafted complaints widely available in form books.

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.'

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.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

Legal reasons for requesting a divorce. All states require a spouse who files for divorce to state the grounds, court and whether requesting a fault divorce or ... (more...)
Legal reasons for requesting a divorce. All states require a spouse who files for divorce to state the grounds, court and whether requesting a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce.

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.'

COMPARABLE RECTITUDE

A doctrine that grants the spouse least at fault a divorce when both spouses have shown grounds for divorce. It is a response to an old common-law rule that pre... (more...)
A doctrine that grants the spouse least at fault a divorce when both spouses have shown grounds for divorce. It is a response to an old common-law rule that prevented a divorce when both spouses were at fault.

MARTIAL MISCONDUCT

See fault divorce.

GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE

Someone appointed by a court to care for the property of a minor child that is not supervised by an adult under some other legal method, such as a trust. A guar... (more...)
Someone appointed by a court to care for the property of a minor child that is not supervised by an adult under some other legal method, such as a trust. A guardian of the estate may also be called a 'property guardian' or 'financial guardian.' See also guardian.

DISSOLUTION

A term used instead of divorce in some states.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Berger v. Berger

... Defendant appeals by right a judgment of divorce entered after a six-day trial. ... We do not agree with defendant's argument that MCL 552.9(1) requires plaintiff's continuing physical presence in Jackson County for the 10 days immediately preceding filing for divorce. ...

Estes v. Titus

... [9]. III. THE UFTA'S APPLICATION TO PROPERTY SETTLEMENTS IN DIVORCE CASES. In her appeal, Swabash argues ... a transfer. IV. UFTA RELIEF AND COLLATERAL ATTACKS ON DIVORCE JUDGMENTS. The dissenting judge ...

Thornton v. Thornton

... On September 14, 1993, the trial court entered the parties' consent judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce provided that defendant must pay permanent alimony of $125 a week to plaintiff until further order of the court. In addition, the judgment of divorce provided: Plaintiff . ...