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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.'

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.

OPEN ADOPTION

An adoption in which there is some degree of contact between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and sometimes with the child as well. As opposed to most ... (more...)
An adoption in which there is some degree of contact between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and sometimes with the child as well. As opposed to most adoptions in which birth and adoption records are sealed by court order, open adoptions allow the parties to decide how much contact the adoptive family and the birthparents will have.

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.

DESERTION

The voluntary abandonment of one spouse by the other, without the abandoned spouse's consent. Commonly, desertion occurs when a spouse leaves the marital home f... (more...)
The voluntary abandonment of one spouse by the other, without the abandoned spouse's consent. Commonly, desertion occurs when a spouse leaves the marital home for a specified length of time. Desertion is a grounds for divorce in states with fault divorce.

FAMILY COURT

A separate court, or more likely a separate division of the regular state trial court, that considers only cases involving divorce (dissolution of marriage), ch... (more...)
A separate court, or more likely a separate division of the regular state trial court, that considers only cases involving divorce (dissolution of marriage), child custody and support, guardianship, adoption, and other cases having to do with family-related issues, including the issuance of restraining orders in domestic violence cases.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT

See alimony.

CUSTODIAL INTERFERENCE

The taking of a child from his or her parent with the intent to interfere with that parent's physical custody of the child. This is a crime in most states, even... (more...)
The taking of a child from his or her parent with the intent to interfere with that parent's physical custody of the child. This is a crime in most states, even if the taker also has custody rights.

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 Marriage cases

... Herma Hill Kay and Michael S. Wald for Professors of Family Law Scott Altman, R. Richard Banks, Grace Ganz Blumberg, Janet Bowermaster, Carol S. Bruch, Jan C. Costello, Barbara J. Cox, Jay Folberg, Deborah L. Forman, Joan H. Hollinger, Lisa Ikemoto, Courtney G. Joslin ...

Strauss v. Horton

... Courtney G. Joslin and Michael S. Wald for Professors of Family Law Scott Altmann, R. Richard Banks, Sarah Rigdon Bensinger, Grace Ganz Blumberg, 380 Janet Bowermaster, Carol S. Bruch, Patricia A. Cain, Jan C. Costello, Barbara J. Cox, Jay Folberg, Deborah L. Forman ...

In re CC

... & Inst. Code, § 361) [1] denying her visitation and conjoint therapy with her 12-year-old son, CC Since this appeal was filed, the juvenile court has restored monthly monitored visitation through a family law "exit order" and terminated its jurisdiction. ...