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Glossary of Legal Terms

These frequently searched legal terms are in alphabetical order.

What is ACTION? The legal term for a lawsuit.

What is AFFIDAVIT? A written statement of facts made under oath and signed before a notary public.

What is AFFIRMATION? A written statement of facts made and executed by an attorney under penalty of perjury.

What is AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE? Legal defenses in response to a spouse’s pleadings, even if the allegations of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage were true.

What is AGREEMENT? A transcribed or written resolution of the disputed issues.

What is ALLEGATION? Statement of facts contained in a pleading or affidavit setting forth what the pleader intends to prove.

What is ANSWER? The second pleading in an action for divorce, separation or annulment, which is served in response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and which admits or denies allegations.

What is APPEAL? The process whereby a higher court reviews the proceedings resulting in an order or judgment of a lower court and determines whether there was reversible error. An appeal is “taken” by serving and filing a notice of appeal within thirty (30) days after service of the order or judgment to be appealed. An appeal is “perfected” when all of the required papers are filed with the Appellate Court.

What is APPEARANCE? The formal submission by a Respondent to the jurisdiction of the Court after having been served with summons. Appearance also refers to the physical presence of a party at court.

What is CHANGE OF VENUE? A change of the place where the case is to be tried.

What is CHILD SUPPORT? Support for a child (not taxable to the recipient or deductible by the paying spouse).

What is CLAIM? A charge by one spouse against the other.

What is CONTEMPT OF COURT? The willful and intentional failure to comply with a court order, judgment, or decree by a party to the action. Contempt of Court is punishable by fine or imprisonment.

What is CONTESTED CASE? Any case where the court must decide one or more issues that are not agreed to by the parties. Cases are considered contested until all issues have been agreed to.

What is CROSS-EXAMINATION? The questioning of a witness presented by the opposing party on trial or at a deposition, to test the truth of that testimony or to develop it further.

What is DEFAULT OR DEFAULT JUDGMENT? An order or judgment granted by the court without the other side being heard because they failed.

What is DEPOSITION? The testimony of a witness taken out of court under oath and reduced to writing. Depositions are taken for the purpose of discovering the facts upon which a party’s claim is based; obtaining financial information or discovering the substance of a witness’s testimony prior to trial. The deposition may be used to discredit a witness if he changed his testimony. Depositions are used to preserve the testimony of a witness who will be unable to appear at trial.

What is DIRECT EXAMINATION? The initial questioning of a witness by the attorney who called him or her to the stand.

What is DISCLOSURE? Procedures followed by attorneys in order to determine the nature, cope and credibility of the opposing party’s claim and his or her financial status. Disclosure devices include depositions, written interrogatories, and notices to produce various documentation relating the issues which are decided in the case. Psychological examinations, blood tests, and court social service investigations are also part of disclosure.

What is DISCRETION OF THE COURT? The area of choice available to a judge to make a legally acceptable decision on his interpretation of the evidence.

What is DISTRIBUTIVE AWARD? A lump sum, tax-free payment ordered by the court in lieu of or to supplement or facilitate a property distribution.

What is EMANCIPATION? The point at which a child comes of age. Children are emancipated in the State of Florida upon reaching the age of eighteen (18) or upon marriage, leaving the custodial residence, or entering the armed services. Emancipation terminates the duty of support.

What is EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY? A system of distributing property acquired by spouses during their marriage in connection with a divorce or dissolution proceeding. The division is based on a variety of equitable factors, including length of the marriage, relative financial contribution, contribution as a spouse and homemaker and respective need. Title to property in the name of either spouse does not necessarily restrict the court’s right to award all or part of that property to the other spouse as part of an equitable distribution.

What is EVIDENCE? Documents, testimony or other demonstrative material offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations in the pleadings or in issue.

What is EX PARTE? An application for court relief without the presence of the other party, due either to a lack of notice or the choice of the other party not to appear.

What is FINAL JUDGMENT? The final ruling of the judge on an action for divorce, legal separation, or annulment.

What is FOUNDATION? The evidence that must be presented before asking certain questions or offering documentary evidence at trial.

What is HEARING? Any proceeding before the court where testimony is taken for the purpose of resolving disputed issues.

What is HOLD-HARMLESS? When one spouse assumes liability for a debt or obligation and promises to protect the other from any loss or expense in connection therewith.

What is HOSTILE WITNESS? A witness who demonstrates so much prejudice during direct examination that the party who has called him or her is allowed to cross-examine. The greater flexibility of cross-examination enables the questioner to ask leading questions and to attack the credibility of the hostile witness.

What is IMPEACHMENT? The act of proving either by prior inconsistent statement or other conflicting evidence that a witness is lying.

What is INDEMNIFICATION? To promise to reimburse another person in case of an anticipated loss; the same as hold-harmless.

What is INJUNCTION? A court order forbidding someone from doing a particular act which is likely to cause injury or property loss to another party; the same as a restraining order.

What are INTERROGATORIES? A series of written questions served upon the opposing party in order to discover certain facts regarding the disputed issues in a matrimonial proceeding. The answers to interrogatories must be under oath and served within a prescribed period of time.

What is JOINT PROPERTY? Property held in the name of more than one person.

What is JUDGMENT? The order of the court determining the action; the same as final judgment.

What is JURISDICTION? The power of the court to rule upon issues relating to the parties, their children or their property.

What is LEGAL SEPARATION? A judgment of the court or written agreement directing or authorizing the spouses to live separate and apart. Actions for legal separation provide for maintenance, child custody, and support, but do not provide for equitable distribution of marital property. A decree of separation does not dissolve the marriage and does not allow the parties to remarry.

What is LEVERAGE FACTORS? Particular considerations, based on the priorities of the parties, which induce them to settle disputed issues. The skillful employment of these leverage factors generally controls the successful outcome of a settlement.

What is MAINTENANCE? Spousal support (deductible to the paying spouse and taxable as income to the recipient).

What is MARITAL PROPERTY? Accumulated income and property acquired by the spouses during the marriage, subject to equitable distribution by the court. Property acquired by gift from third parties or inheritance, and personal injury recoveries are not marital property.

What is MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT? The settlement reduced to a written document.

What is MISTRIAL? A trial that is terminated prior to its completion, due to the occurrence of some fundamental error that would render the trial invalid. Following a mistrial, the case must be tried again from the beginning.

What is MOTION? A written application to the court for some particular relief such as temporary support, injunction, or attorney’s fees, which is made upon advance notice the other party.

What is NO-FAULT DIVORCE? A marriage-dissolution system whereby divorce is granted without the necessity of proving one of the parties guilty of marital misconduct.

What is NOTICE OF HEARING? A paper which is served upon the opposing attorney or other spouse advising them of the date and place when hearing will take place and the motion or motions that be heard by the court.

What is ORDER? The court’s ruling on a motion requiring the parties to do certain things or setting forth their rights and responsibilities. An order is reduced to writing, signed by the judge and filed with the court.

What is PERSONAL JURISDICTION? The power of the court to order a spouse to do a particular thing such as payment maintenance or child support.

What is PETITION? The first pleading in an action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment, setting forth the allegations upon which the requested relief is based.

What is PETITIONER? The party who files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or any other Petition.

What is PLEADING? Formal written application to the court for relief and the written response thereto. Pleadings include petitions, answers, counterclaims, replies, and motions.

What is PRAYER? That portion of a pleading, at the end, which specifies the relief that is requested of the court.

What is PRIVILEGE? The right of a spouse to make admissions to an attorney, clergyman, psychiatrist, his or her spouse, a doctor or certified social worker which are not later admissible in evidence.

What is REBUTTAL? The introduction of evidence at trial that is in response to a new matter raised by the Respondent at an earlier stage of the trial.

What is RELIEF? Whatever a party to a divorce proceeding asks the court to do; dissolve the marriage, award support, enforce a prior court order or decree, divide property, enjoin certain behavior, dismiss the complaint of the other part, etc.

What is REPLY? The pleading filed in answer to the allegations of a counter-claim.

What is RESPONDENT? The one who defends the divorce proceeding brought by another.

What is REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS? Documents and/or other information to be produced.

What is RULES OF EVIDENCE? The rules that govern the method of presentation and admissibility of oral and documentary evidence at court hearing or depositions.

What is SETOFF? A debt or financial obligation of one spouse which is deducted from the debt or financial obligation of the other spouse.

What is SETTLEMENT? The agreed resolution of disputed issues.

What is SHOW CAUSE? Written application to the court for some type of relief which is made upon such notice to the other party as the court directs and which may contain a restraining order, temporary injunction, or other ex parte relief, pending the determination of the motion.

What is STATUS QUO? The existing state of thing; leaving things as they are without modification or alteration. “Thing”: can be anything from visitation arrangement to property rights.

What is STIPULATION? An agreement between the parties or their counsel.

What is SUBPOENA? A document served upon a person who is not a party to the action, requiring him or her to appear and give testimony at a deposition or court hearing. A subpoena is normally accompanied by a witness fee set by statute, as well as a mileage fee for transportation costs to and from the place to which the individual is subpoenaed. Failure to comply with the subpoena could result in punishment by the court.

What is SUMMONS? A written notification to the Respondent that an action has been commenced against him or her, requiring that the Respondent answer the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage within a specified period of time.

What is SURREBUTTAL? Testimony offered by the Respondent to counter any new matter contained in the rebuttal testimony offered by the Petitioner.

What is TEMPORARY OR PENDENTE LITE MOTIONS? Applications to the court for interim relief pending the final decree of divorce, separation, or annulment. Typical temporary motions include motions for temporary maintenance, child support, attorney’s fees, costs, expert fees, custody, visitation, enforcement or modification of prior temporary orders. The court enters a pendent lite order after determining a motion. Motions are brought on by the service of a notice of motion or order to show cause, with supporting affidavits.

What is TESTIMONY? Statements under oath by a witness in a court hearing or deposition.

What is TRANSCRIPT? A typewritten translation of proceedings taken by a court reported during a deposition or court appearance.

What is TRIAL? A formal court hearing to decide disputed issues raised by the pleadings.

What is VACATED? When a court order, judgment or decree is somehow defective, it is vacated; that is eliminated, and either a s substitute order is entered or a new hearing is granted, which will ultimately result in a new order or judgment.

What is VERIFICATION? A pleading made under oath and signed before a notary public.
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The Law Office of Knellinger & Associates provides legal advice and representation for individuals, entrepreneurs, and business owners in Gainesville, Florida, and communities throughout north central Florida, including cities such as Ocala, Starke, Palatka, Lake City, Middleburg, Trenton, Bronson, Lake Butler, Cross City, Williston, Chiefland, Alachua, Jasper, Live Oak, and Jacksonville, Florida.

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