Glossary

Legal Terms and Related Definitions

Note: The following definitions are intended to be helpful, BUT they are NOT intended to constitute legal advice or address every possible meaning of the term (s) contained herein. Affidavit A written or printed declaration or statement of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it, taken before a person having authority to administer such oath or affirmation.

Attorney of Record - Attorney whose name must appear somewhere in permanent records or files of case, or on the pleadings or some instrument filed in the case, or on appearance docket.

Bond- A certificate or evidence of a debt on which the issuing company or governmental body promises to pay the bondholders a specified amount of interest for a specified length of time, and to repay the loan on the expiration date.

Certified Copy - A copy of a document or record, signed and certified as a true copy by the officer to whose custody the original is entrusted.

Court order - Direction of a court or judge made or entered in writing, and not included in a judgment, which determines some point or directs some step in the proceedings.

Defendant - The person defending or denying; the party against whom relief or recovery is sought in an action or suit or the accused in a criminal case.

Distress Writ - A writ that enables a common-law right of landlord, now regulated by statute, to seize a tenant's goods and chattels in a nonjudicial proceeding to satisfy an arrears of rent.

Docket - To abstract and enter in a book. To make a brief entry of any proceeding in a court of justice in the docket. A minute, abstract, or brief entry; or the book containing such entries. A formal record, entered in brief, of the proceedings in a court of justice.

Docket Fee - An attorney's fee, of a fixed sum, chargeable with or as a part of the costs of the action, for the attorney of the successful party.

Enforce - To put into execution; to cause to take effect; to make effective; as, to enforce a particular law, a writ, a judgment or the collection of a debt or fine; to compel obedience to.

Entity - A real being; existence. An organization or being that possesses separate existence for tax purposes. Entity includes person estate, trust and governmental unit.

Execution - Carrying out some act or course of conduct to its completion. Execution of contract includes performance of all acts necessary to render it complete as an instrument and imports idea that nothing remains to be done to make complete and effective contract. Execution upon a money judgment is the legal process of enforcing the judgment, usually by seizing and selling property of the debtor. Form of process whereby an official (usually a sheriff) is directed by way of an appropriate judicial writ to seize and sell so much of the debtor's nonexempt property as is necessary to satisfy a judgment.

Eviction - Dispossession by process of law; the act of depriving a person of the possession of land or rental property which he has held or leased. Act of turning a tenant out of possession, either by re-entry or legal proceedings.

Hearing - A proceeding of relative formality (though generally less formal than a trial), generally public, with definite issues of fact or of law to be tried, in which witnesses are heard and evidence presented. It is a proceeding where evidence is taken to determine issue of fact and to render decision on basis of that evidence.

Incarceration - Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

Injunction - A court order prohibiting someone from doing some specified act or commanding someone to undo some wrong or injury.

Judgment - A sense of knowledge sufficient to comprehend nature of transaction. The formation of an opinion or notion concerning some thing by exercising the mind upon it.

Legal Description - A description of real property by government survey, metes and bounds, or lot numbers of a recorded plat including a description of any portion thereof subject to an easement or reservation, if any. Such must be complete enough that a particular parcel of land can be located and identified.

Levy - A seizure. The obtaining of money by legal process through seizure and sale of property; the raising of the money for which an execution has been issued.

Notice - Information concerning a fact, actually communicated to a person by an authorized person, or actually derived by him from a proper source, and is regarded in law as "actual" when the person sought to be affected by it knows thereby of the existence of the particular fact in question.

Petition - A written address, embodying an application or prayer from the person or persons preferring it, to the power, body or person to whom it is presented, for the exercise of his or their authority in the redress of some wrong, or the grant of some favor, privilege or license.

Replevin - An action whereby the owner or person entitled to repossession of goods or chattels may recover those goods or chattels from one who has wrongfully taken or who wrongfully detains such goods or chattels.

Restraining Order - An order in the nature of an injunction which may issue upon filing of an application for an injunction forbidding the defendant from doing the threatened act until a hearing on the application can be had.

Satisfaction - An entry made on the record, by which a party in whose favor a judgment was rendered declares that he has been satisfied and paid.

Satisfaction of Judgment - A document such as an execution enforced by the judgment creditor and indicating that the judgment has been paid.

Seizure - The act of taking possession of a property for a violation of law or by virtue of an execution of a judgment. Term implies a taking or removal of something from the possession, actual or constructive, of another person or persons.

Subpoena - A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter.

True copy - A true copy does not mean an absolutely exact copy but means that the copy shall be so true that anybody can understand it.

Witness - One who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing. One who is called to testify before a court. A person whose declaration under oath (or affirmation) is received as evidence for any purpose, whether such declaration be made on oral examination or by deposition or affidavit. A person attesting genuineness of signature to document by adding his signature. One who is called upon to be present at a transaction, or the making of a will. He may thereafter, if necessary, testify to the transaction.

Writ - A written judicial order to perform a specified act, or giving authority to have it done. A written court order or a judicial process, directing that a sheriff or other judicial officer do what is commanded by the writ.

Writ of Attachment - An order to seize a debtor's property so as to secure the claim of a creditor. A writ employed to enforce obedience to an order or judgment of the court. It may take the form of taking or seizing property to bring it under control of the court.

Writ of Execution - A writ to put in force the judgment or decree of a court. Formal, written command of a court directing a sheriff or other official to enforce a judgment through process of execution. Source Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition; West Publishing Co., St. Paul, MN.

Expanded Glossary Process Server Terms

Affidavit - a written or printed declaration or statement of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it, taken before a person having authority to administer such oath or affirmation.

Answer - written response by a respondent that states whether he or she admits (agrees with) or denies (disagrees with) the allegations in the petition. Any allegations not specifically denied are considered to be admitted.

Answer and Waiver of Service - written response by a respondent served with a petition that states the they do not wish to contest it or appear at a hearing.

Appeal - asking a district court of appeal to review the decision in your case. There are strict procedural and time requirements for filing an appeal.

Asset - everything owned by you or your spouse, including property, cars, furniture, bank accounts, jewelry, life insurance policies, businesses, or retirement plans. An asset may be marital or nonmarital, but that distinction is for the court to determine if you and your spouse do not agree.

Attorney - a person with special education and training in the field of law who is a member in good standing and licensed to practice law. An attorney is the only person who is allowed to give you legal advice. An attorney may file your case and represent you in court, or just advise you of your rights before you file your own case. In addition to advising you of your rights, an attorney may tell you what to expect and help prepare you for court. In family law matters, you are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer, like a public defender in a criminal case. However, legal assistance is often available for those who are unable to hire a private attorney. You may consult the yellow pages of the telephone directory for a listing of legal aid or lawyer referral services in your area, or ask your local clerk of court or family law intake staff what services are available in your area.

Bond - money paid to the clerk of court by one party in a case, to be held and paid to an enjoined party in the event that the first party causes loss or damage of property as a result of wrongfully enjoining the other party.

Central Governmental Depository - the office of the clerk of court that is responsible for collecting and disbursing court-ordered alimony and child support payments. The depository also keeps payment records and files judgments if support is not paid.

Certificate of Service - a document that must be filed whenever a form you are using does not contain a statement for you to fill in showing to whom you are sending copies of the form. A court approved Family Law Form is the certificate of service form and contains additional instructions.

Certified Copy - a copy of an order or final judgment, certified by the clerk of the circuit court to be an authentic copy.

Certified Mail - mail which requires the receiving party to sign as proof that they received it.

Child Support - money paid from one parent to the other for the benefit of their dependent or minor child (ren).

Clerk of the Circuit Court - elected official in whose office papers are filed, a case number is assigned, and case files are maintained. The clerk’s office usually is located in the courthouse.

Constructive Service - notification of the other party by newspaper publication or posting of notice at designated places when the other party cannot be located for personal service. You may also be able to use constructive service when the other party lives in another state. Constructive service is also called "service by publication." However, when constructive service is used, the relief the Court may grant is limited.

Contested Issues - any or all issues upon which the parties are unable to agree and which must be resolved by the judge at a hearing or trial.

Contingent Asset - an asset that you may receive or get later, such as income, tax refund, accrued vacation or sick leave, a bonus, or an inheritance.

Contingent Liability - a liability that you may owe later, such as payments for lawsuits, unpaid taxes, or debts that you have agreed or guaranteed to pay if someone else does not.

Counterpetition - a written request to the court for legal action, which is filed by a respondent after being served with a petition.

Default - a failure of a party to respond to the pleading of another party. This failure to respond may allow the court to decide the case without input from the party who did not appear or respond.

Defendant – the person defending or denying; the party against whom relief or recovery is sought in an action or suit.

Delinquent - late.

Dependent Child(ren) - child(ren) who depend on their parent(s) for support either because they are under the age of 18, they have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from supporting themselves, or they are in high school while between the ages of 18 and 19 and are performing in good faith with reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.

Deputy Clerk - an employee of the office of the clerk of court, which is usually located in the county courthouse or a branch of the county courthouse.

Dissolution of Marriage - divorce; a court action to end a marriage.

Enjoined - prohibited by the court from doing a specific act.

Eviction – dispossession by process of law; the act of depriving a person of the possession of land or rental property which he has held or leased.

Ex Parte - communication with the judge by only one party. In order for a judge to speak with either party, the other party must have been properly notified and have an opportunity to be heard. If you have something you wish to tell the judge, you should ask for a hearing or file information in the clerk of court’s office, with certification that a copy was sent to the other party.

Family Law Intake Staff - a court’s employee(s) who is (are) available to assist you in filing a family law case. Family law intake staff are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice. They may only assist you with filling out the form(s). Your local clerk’s office can tell you if your county has such assistance available.

Filing - delivering a petition, response, motion, or other pleading in a court case to the clerk of court’s office.

Filing Fee - an amount of money, set by law, that the petitioner must pay when filing a case. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you must file an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status, to ask the clerk to file your case without payment of the fee. This form can be obtained from the clerk’s office.

Final Hearing - trial in your case.

Financial Affidavit - a sworn statement that contains information regarding your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

Final Judgment - a written document signed by a judge and recorded in the clerk of the circuit court’s office that contains the judge’s decision in your case.

Guardian ad Litem - a neutral person who may be appointed by the court to evaluate or investigate your child’s situation, and file a report with the court about what is in the best interests of your child(ren). Guardians do not work for either party. The guardian may interview the parties, visit their homes, visit the child(ren)’s school(s) and speak with teachers, or use other resources to make their recommendation.

Hearing - a legal proceeding before a judge or designated officer (general magistrate or hearing officer) on a motion.

Irretrievably - Unable to be saved

Judge - an elected official who is responsible for deciding matters on which you and the other parties in your case are unable to agree. A judge is a neutral person who is responsible for ensuring that your case is resolved in a manner which is fair, equitable, and legal. A judge is prohibited by law from giving you or the other party any legal advice, recommendations, or other assistance, and may not talk to either party unless both parties are present, represented, or at a properly scheduled hearing.

Judicial Assistant - the judge’s personal staff assistant.

Landlord – the owner of an estate in land, or a rental property, who has leased it to another person, called the “tenant”.

Liabilities - everything owed by you or your spouse, including mortgages, credit cards, or car loans. A liability may be marital or nonmarital, but that distinction is for the court to determine if you and your spouse do not agree.

Lump Sum Alimony - money ordered to be paid by one spouse to another in a limited number of payments, often a single payment.

Mandatory Disclosure - items that must be disclosed by both parties except those exempted from disclosure.

Marital Asset - generally, anything that you and/or your spouse acquired or received (by gift or purchase) during the marriage. For example, something you owned before your marriage may be nonmarital. asset may only be determined to be marital by agreement of the parties or determination of the judge.

Marital Liability - generally, any debt that you and/or your spouse incurred during the marriage. A debt may only be determined to be nonmarital by agreement of the parties or determination of the judge.

Mediation – private, informal dispute resolution process in which a neutral third person, the mediator, helps disputing parties to reach an agreement.

Mediator - a person who is trained and certified to assist parties in reaching an agreement before going to court. Mediators do not take either party’s side and are not allowed to give legal advice. They are only responsible for helping the parties reach an agreement and putting that agreement into writing. In some areas, mediation of certain family law cases may be required before going to court.

Modification - a change made by the court in an order or final judgment.

Motion - a request made to the court, other than a petition.

No Contact - a court order directing a party not speak to, call, send mail to, visit, or go near his or her spouse, ex-spouse, child(ren), or other family member.

Nonlawyer - a person who is not a member in good standing

Nonmarital Asset - generally, anything owned separately by you or your spouse. An asset may only be determined to be nonmarital by either agreement of the parties or determination of the judge.

Nonmarital Liability - generally, any debt that you or your spouse incurred before your marriage or since your separation. A debt may only be determined to be nonmarital by either agreement of the parties or determination of the judge.

Nonparty - a person who is not the petitioner or respondent in a court case.

Notary Public - a person authorized to witness signatures on court related forms.

Obligee - a person to whom money, such as child support or alimony, is owed.

Obligor - a person who is ordered by the court to pay money, such as child support or alimony.

Order - a written decision signed by a judge and filed in the clerk of the circuit court’s office, that contains the judge’s decision on part of your case, usually on a motion.

Original Petition - see Petition.

Parenting Course - a class that teaches parents how to help their child(ren) cope with divorce and other family issues.

Party - a person involved in a court case, either as a petitioner or respondent.

Paternity Action - A lawsuit used to determine whether a designated individual is the father of a specific child or children.

Payor - an employer or other person who provides income to an obligor.

Permanent Alimony - spousal support ordered to be paid at a specified, periodic rate until modified by a court order, the death of either party, or the remarriage of the Obligee, whichever occurs first.

Personal Service - when a summons and a copy of a petition (or other pleading) that has been filed with the court are delivered by a deputy sheriff or private process server to the other party. Personal service is required for all petitions and supplemental petitions.

Petition - a written request to the court for legal action, which begins a court case.

Petitioner - the person who files a petition that begins a court case.

Plaintiff – a person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil action and is so named on the record.

Pleading - a formal written statement of exactly what a party wants the court to do in a lawsuit or court action.

Pretrial Conference – procedural device used prior to trial to narrow issues to be tried, to secure stipulations as to matters and evidence to be heard, and to take all other steps necessary to aid in the disposition of the case.

Primary Residence - the home in which the child(ren) spends most of his/her (their) time.

Pro Se Litigant - a person who appears in court without the assistance of a lawyer.

Pro Se Coordinator - see Family Law Intake Staff.

Reasonable Visitation - visitation between the nonresidential parent and child(ren) that provides frequent and unhampered contact with the child(ren). Such visitation is designed to encourage a close and continuing relationship with due regard for educational commitments of child(ren), any health or social factors of the child(ren), business and personal commitments of both parents, and home arrangements of both parents.

Registered Agent - An official agent of a corporation or organization who has been registered.

Rehabilitative Alimony - spousal support ordered to be paid for a limited period of time to allow one of the parties an opportunity to complete a plan of education or training, according to a rehabilitative plan accepted by the court, so that he or she may better support himself or herself.

Respondent - the person who is served with a petition requesting some legal action against him or her.

Rotating Custody - physical custody of child(ren) after divorce, which is alternated between the mother and father at specified periods of time, as determined by the court. Rotating custody allows each parent equal time with the child(ren).

Satisfaction of Judgment – a document such as an execution enforced by the judgment creditor and indicating that the judgment has been satisfied.

Scientific Paternity Testing - a medical test to determine who is the father of a child.

Secondary Residential Responsibility (Visitation) - the time that the parent with whom the child(ren) does (do) not have primary residence spends with the child(ren).

Service - the delivery of legal documents to a party.

Shared Parental Responsibility - an arrangement under which both parents have full parental rights and responsibilities for their child(ren), and the parents make major decisions affecting the welfare of the child(ren) jointly. Shared Parental Responsibility is presumptive in Florida.

Sole Parental Responsibility - a parenting arrangement under which the responsibility for the minor child(ren) is given to one parent by the court, with or without rights of visitation to the other parent.

Specified Visitation - a parenting arrangement under which a specific schedule is established for the visitation and exchange of the child(ren).

Spouse - a husband or wife.

Spousal Support - Financial support for a husband or wife also called alimony.

Stipulation – an agreement, admission or confession made in a judicial proceeding by the parties thereto or their attorneys.

Supervised Visitation - a parenting arrangement under which visitation between a parent and his or her child(ren) is supervised by either a friend, family member, or a supervised visitation center.

Supplemental Petition - a petition that may be filed by either party after the judge has made a decision in a case and a final judgment or order has been entered. For example, a supplemental petition may be used to request that the court modify the previously entered final judgment or order.

Temporary Spousal Support - Financial support for a husband or wife for a limited time.

Tenant - one who holds lands of another; one who has the temporary use and occupation of real property owned by another person (called the landlord), the duration and terms of his tenancy being usually fixed by an instrument called a lease.

Trial - the final hearing in a contested case.

Uncontested - any and all issues on which the parties are able to agree and which are part of a marital settlement agreement.

Writ of possession – writ of execution employed to enforce a judgment to recover the possession of land. It commands the sheriff to enter the land and give possession of it to the person entitled under the judgment.