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LEGAL TERMS

ADOPTED CHILD

Any person, whether an adult or a minor, who is legally adopted as the child of another in a court proceeding. See adoption.

ADOPTION

A court procedure by which an adult becomes the legal parent of someone who is not his or her biological child. Adoption creates a parent-child relationship rec... (more...)
A court procedure by which an adult becomes the legal parent of someone who is not his or her biological child. Adoption creates a parent-child relationship recognized for all legal purposes -- including child support obligations, inheritance rights and custody.

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.

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.

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE

In some states, a type of marriage in which couples can become legally married by living together for a long period of time, representing themselves as a marrie... (more...)
In some states, a type of marriage in which couples can become legally married by living together for a long period of time, representing themselves as a married couple and intending to be married. Contrary to popular belief, the couple must intend to be married and act as though they are for a common law marriage to take effect -- merely living together for a long time won't do it.

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.

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.

CONNIVANCE

A situation set up so that another person commits a wrongdoing. For example, a husband who invites his wife's lover along on vacation may have connived her adul... (more...)
A situation set up so that another person commits a wrongdoing. For example, a husband who invites his wife's lover along on vacation may have connived her adultery, and if he tried to divorce her for her behavior, she could assert his connivance as a defense.

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.