Because the law is a profession, there are specialized terms for processes, procedures, events, and even people. Ohio family lawyer Melissa Graham-Hurd seeks to enhance your ability to understand this process happening to you by providing definitions of common terms used in Family Law.
Action: the legal term for a lawsuit
Affidavit: a written statement sworn to under oath and signed before a Notary Public
Allegation: statement contained in a pleading or affidavit
Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities: “custody”; the legal right and responsibility awarded by a court for the care, possession and rearing of a child; can be sole allocation or shared parenting; applies between parents.
Answer: the second pleading in an action, which admits or denies allegations of the Complaint
Appeal: process whereby a higher court reviews the orders of the lower court
Appearance: a party’s method of telling the court that he/she submits to jurisdiction
Change of Venue: a change of the place within the state where the case is heard
Child Support: financial support paid for children, non-taxable to recipient, non-deductible to payor
Complaint: the first pleading in a case, setting forth the allegations on which the requested relief is based
Contempt of Court: willful and intentional failure to abide by a court’s order; punishable in a number of ways, including fines, jail sentences, etc.
Contested case: any case where a court must decide one or more issues
Court order: written document issued by a court; effective when signed by judge/magistrate and filed with Clerk; the Court only speaks through its written orders.
Cross-examination: the questioning of a witness by the opposition at a hearing or deposition
Custody: now called the Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, as between parents. “Legal custody” as a concept applies to persons who are not the child’s parents, but are responsible for raising the child by a Court’s order.
Defendant: person being sued by Plaintiff
Deposition: one of the discovery procedures: testimony of a witness taken under oath and out of court but recorded by a court reporter
Direct examination: initial questioning of a witness by the person calling the witness
Discovery: process of gathering information relevant to the case; can be by means of Interrogatories, Deposition, Request for Production, etc.
Emancipation: the point when a child is treated as an adult; usually 18 and out of high school
Evidence: testimony, documents or other material offered to the court to prove or disprove the allegations
Ex parte: without the other side being present
Grounds: the reason alleged for granting the complaint
Guardian ad Litem: person appointed by the Court to report his/her opinion as to the child’s best interests
Hearing: proceeding before the court for the purpose of resolving disputed issues by decision of the court
Hold harmless: a situation in which one spouse assumes liability for a debt and promises to protect the other from any loss or expense in connection with it
Indemnification: the promise to reimburse the other for losses incurred after a promise to hold harmless;
Interrogatories: one of the available discovery procedures: a series of written questions served on opposing party to discover facts; answered under oath
Jurisdiction: the authority of the court to rule on matters and issues presented
Magistrate’s Order/Decision: written document prepared by the court after a hearing, but not a final order of the court
Marital Property: income or property earned or acquired during the marriage; everything else except “separate property”
Mediation: process by which a neutral third party facilitates negotiation between the parties; is not arbitration (decision-making) but helping the parties make decisions together
Motion: a written application to the court for relief
Notice: document served on the other side giving notice of time and date of a hearing, an address, etc.
Order: the court’s written ruling on issues; requires the parties to do things stated; sets forth parties’ responsibilities; effective when signed and filed with Clerk
Parenting Time: “visitation”; schedule for children’s time with parents
Party: the people named in the action whose rights or interests will be affected by the orders
Plaintiff: the party who files the Complaint, the first pleading
Pleading: formal; written application to the court for relief and response to it; complaints, answers, counterclaims, replies, and motions are all pleadings
Pro se: person who goes to court representing himself/herself
Relief: what the party asks the court to do in his/her pleadings
Reply: the answer to a counterclaim
Request for Production of Documents: one of the discovery procedures: a list of documents to be produced within a fixed period of time, usually 28 days after the Request is served
Restraining Order: a court order forbidding a party from doing an act that is likely to cause harm to another party or a child
Rules: the rules that govern the conduct of the court (Civil Rules), presentation of evidence (Rules of Evidence) and the organization of the Courts (Rules of Superintendence), all issued by the Ohio Supreme Court; each locality also has the ability to issue Local Rules
Separate property: property belonging to only one spouse; property owned prior to marriage, sometimes after separation; property received by inheritance or gift to just that one spouse
Separation Agreement: the agreement of the parties reduced to writing or placed on the record in open court and made a part of the court’s order
Set Off: when parties each owe sums of money to each other, a debt of one spouse deducted from the debt of the other spouse
Settlement: the agreed resolution of the disputed items
Show Cause: written application to the court for a holding of contempt
Spousal Support: the new term for “alimony”; support paid from one party to another; taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor.
Stipulation: agreement between the parties as to a fact or series of facts
Subpoena: a document served on a party or witness requiring appearance at court; Subpoena Duces Tecum requires the person subpoenaed to bring documents to court with him/her.
Summons: a written notification that a legal action has commenced and requires a response within a fixed time period
Temporary motions: application to the court for interim relief; typical are requests for parenting, support, and use of property during the pendency of the action
Testimony: statements made under oath by a witness
Transcript: a typewritten record of testimony of a witness
Trial: a formal court hearing before a Judge to decide disputed issues
Visitation: now called “Parenting Time” as between parents; Visitation is still granted to people who are not parents, such as grandparents, relatives, other persons who can show that they have an abiding interest in the welfare of the child, have a history of interaction with the child and have continued contact with the child.
THIS INFORMATION IS INTENDED TO BE A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE WORDS USED IN DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURT IN OHIO AND IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE ON YOUR PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES. IT IS ONLY INTENDED TO ASSIST YOU IN UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS.
IF YOU SHOULD HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT THE OFFICE TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT – 330-996-4099.