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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.

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.

CLOSE CORPORATION

A corporation owned and operated by a few individuals, often members of the same family, rather than by public shareholders. State laws permit close corporation... (more...)
A corporation owned and operated by a few individuals, often members of the same family, rather than by public shareholders. State laws permit close corporations to function more informally than regular corporations. For example, shareholders can make decisions without holding meetings of the board of directors, and can fill vacancies on the board without a vote of the shareholders.

CONDONATION

One person's approval of another's activities, constituting a defense to a fault divorce. For example, if a wife did not object to her husband's adultery and la... (more...)
One person's approval of another's activities, constituting a defense to a fault divorce. For example, if a wife did not object to her husband's adultery and later tries to use it as grounds for a divorce, he could argue that she had condoned his behavior and could perhaps prevent her from divorcing him on these grounds.

DISSOLUTION

A term used instead of divorce in some states.

STIRPES

A term used in wills that refers to descendants of a common ancestor or branch of a family.

STEPPARENT ADOPTION

The formal, legal adoption of a child by a stepparent who is living with a legal parent. Most states have special provisions making stepparent adoptions relativ... (more...)
The formal, legal adoption of a child by a stepparent who is living with a legal parent. Most states have special provisions making stepparent adoptions relatively easy if the child's noncustodial parent gives consent, is dead or missing, or has abandoned the child.

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.

EMANCIPATION

The act of freeing someone from restraint or bondage. For example, on January 1, 1863, slaves in the confederate states were declared free by an executive order... (more...)
The act of freeing someone from restraint or bondage. For example, on January 1, 1863, slaves in the confederate states were declared free by an executive order of President Lincoln, known as the 'Emancipation Proclamation.' After the Civil War, this emancipation was extended to the entire country and made law by the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. Nowadays, emancipation refers to the point at which a child is free from parental control. It occurs when the child's parents no longer perform their parental duties and surrender their rights to the care, custody and earnings of their minor child. Emancipation may be the result of a voluntary agreement between the parents and child, or it may be implied from their acts and ongoing conduct. For example, a child who leaves her parents' home and becomes entirely self-supporting without their objection is considered emancipated, while a child who goes to stay with a friend or relative and gets a part-time job is not. Emancipation may also occur when a minor child marries or enters the military.

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 ...