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LEGAL TERMS

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.

CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION

Information exchanged between two people who (1) have a relationship in which private communications are protected by law, and (2) intend that the information b... (more...)
Information exchanged between two people who (1) have a relationship in which private communications are protected by law, and (2) intend that the information be kept in confidence. The law recognizes certain parties whose communications will be considered confidential and protected, including spouses, doctor and patient, attorney and client, and priest and confessor. Communications between these individuals cannot be disclosed in court unless the protected party waives that protection. The intention that the communication be confidential is critical. For example, if an attorney and his client are discussing a matter in the presence of an unnecessary third party -- for example, in an elevator with other people present -- the discussion will not be considered confidential and may be admitted at trial. Also known as privileged communication.

GUARDIAN

An adult who has been given the legal right by a court to control and care for a minor or her property. Someone who looks after a child's property is called a '... (more...)
An adult who has been given the legal right by a court to control and care for a minor or her property. Someone who looks after a child's property is called a 'guardian of the estate.' An adult who has legal authority to make personal decisions for the child, including responsibility for his physical, medical and educational needs, is called a 'guardian of the person.' Sometimes just one person will be named to take care of all these tasks. An individual appointed by a court to look after an incapacitated adult may also be known as a guardian, but is more frequently called a conservator.

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.

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.

COLLUSION

Secret cooperation between two people in order to fool another. Collusion was often practiced by couples before no-fault divorce in order to make up a grounds f... (more...)
Secret cooperation between two people in order to fool another. Collusion was often practiced by couples before no-fault divorce in order to make up a grounds for divorce (such as adultery). By fabricating a permitted reason for divorce, colluding couples hoped to trick a judge into granting their freedom from the marriage. But a spouse accused of wrongdoing who later changed his or her mind about the divorce could expose the collusion to prevent the divorce from going through.

STEPCHILD

A child born to your spouse before your marriage whom you have not legally adopted. If you adopt the child, he or she is legally treated just like a biological ... (more...)
A child born to your spouse before your marriage whom you have not legally adopted. If you adopt the child, he or she is legally treated just like a biological offspring. Under the Uniform Probate Code, followed in some states, a stepchild belongs in the same class as a biological child and will inherit property left 'to my children.' In other states, a stepchild is not treated like a biological child unless he or she can prove that the parental relationship was established when he or she was a minor and that adoption would have occurred but for some legal obstacle.

ALIMONY

The money paid by one ex-spouse to the other for support under the terms of a court order or settlement agreement following a divorce. Except in marriages of lo... (more...)
The money paid by one ex-spouse to the other for support under the terms of a court order or settlement agreement following a divorce. Except in marriages of long duration (ten years or more) or in the case of an ailing spouse, alimony usually lasts for a set period, with the expectation that the recipient spouse will become self-supporting. Alimony is also called 'spousal support' or 'maintenance.'

ISSUE

A term generally meaning all your children and their children down through the generations, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Also called... (more...)
A term generally meaning all your children and their children down through the generations, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Also called 'lineal descendants.'