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LEGAL TERMS

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.

CENSUS

An official count of the number of people living in a certain area, such as a district, city, county, state, or nation. The United States Constitution requires ... (more...)
An official count of the number of people living in a certain area, such as a district, city, county, state, or nation. The United States Constitution requires the federal government to perform a national census every ten years. The census includes information about the respondents' sex, age, family, and social and economic status.

DEFAULT DIVORCE

See uncontested divorce.

ADOPTIVE PARENT

A person who completes all the requirements to legally adopt a child who is not his or her biological child. Generally, any single or married adult who is deter... (more...)
A person who completes all the requirements to legally adopt a child who is not his or her biological child. Generally, any single or married adult who is determined to be a 'fit parent' may adopt a child. Some states have special requirements, such as age or residency criteria. An adoptive parent has all the responsibilities of a biological parent.

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.

QUALIFIED MEDICAL CHILD SUPPORT ORDER (QMSCO)

A court order that provides health benefit coverage for the child of the noncustodial parent under that parent's group health plan.

INTERLOCUTORY DECREE

A court judgment that is not final until the judge decides other matters in the case or until enough time has passed to see if the interim decision is working. ... (more...)
A court judgment that is not final until the judge decides other matters in the case or until enough time has passed to see if the interim decision is working. In the past, interlocutory decrees were most often used in divorces. The terms of the divorce were set out in an interlocutory decree, which would become final only after a waiting period. The purpose of the waiting period was to allow the couple time to reconcile. They rarely did, however, so most states no longer use interlocutory decrees of divorce.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM

A person, not necessarily a lawyer, who is appointed by a court to represent and protect the interests of a child or an incapacitated adult during a lawsuit. Fo... (more...)
A person, not necessarily a lawyer, who is appointed by a court to represent and protect the interests of a child or an incapacitated adult during a lawsuit. For example, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed to represent the interests of a child whose parents are locked in a contentious battle for custody, or to protect a child's interests in a lawsuit where there are allegations of child abuse. The GAL may conduct interviews and investigations, make reports to the court and participate in court hearings or mediation sessions. Sometimes called court-appointed special advocates (CASAs).

PATERNITY SUIT

A lawsuit to determine the identity of the father of a child born outside of marriage, and to provide for the support of the child once the identity of the fath... (more...)
A lawsuit to determine the identity of the father of a child born outside of marriage, and to provide for the support of the child once the identity of the father has been determined.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Herpich v. Estate of Herpich

... As part of the divorce proceedings, they executed a marital settlement agreement dividing all their marital assets. Six months after the divorce was final, Appellant and Mr. Herpich remarried. Mr. Herpich died intestate two years later, while still married to Appellant. ...

Jones v. Jones

... Since the divorce, they have maintained joint custody over their daughter. ... During the hearing, Ms. Jones first recounted an incident in 2005, prior to the Joneses' divorce, in which Mr. Jones had pushed Ms. Jones and hit a tray on which she was carrying a sandwich. ...

Taylor v. Taylor

... 3. In the event of a separation or divorce, the parties shall have no right against each other by way of claims for support, alimony, maintenance, compensation or division of property existing of this date. 4. In the event of separation ...