Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Often times, attorneys may sound as if they are speaking a foreign language [many legal terms are latin-based so, in some respects, they are speaking a foreign language]. So we at Carpenter & Judd have assembled a glossary to help identify and define many of these terms.


To take someone away from a place without that person’s consent, or by fraud


A non-custodian parent’s bundle of rights or times and days during which he/she has exclusive time with the child of the separated parents

Ad Litem

Latin: for the suit


To take as one’s own

Adoption of Convenience

An adoption of a child not for the sake of the child but to the convenience, usually financial, of the adopting parent(s)


An individual who has reached, or is over the age of majority

Adult Child

A son or daughter who has reached the age of majority


Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not their married spouse

Adult Interdependent Partner

A statutory term for individuals within a common-law relationship

Age of Majority

An age generally specified by statute, at which time, upon an individual is given the full gamut of legal rights and responsibilities generally available to an adult of sound mind


An amount given to one spouse to another while they are separated

Amicus Curiae

Latin: friend of the court


To make void forever; to cancel an event or judicial proceeding both retroactively and for the future so that in the eyes of the law, it never occurred


An event or document which pre-dates a marriage


A debt that is not paid on the due date adds up and accumulates in arrears

A Vinculo Matrimonii

Latin: of marriage

Bird’s Nest Custody

A form of access or custody where the children stay in the former family residence and it is the parents who rotate in and out separately and on a negotiated schedule

Born Out of Wedlock

Born of parents who were not married at the time of birth

Certificate of Independent Legal Advice

A document that attests that a person has received legal advice on a proposed contract, from a lawyer not associated with the other contracting party

Child Support

Periodic money payments payable by a non-custodial parent, to the custodial parent, for the care of his or her child

Civil Code

A document in civil law jurisdictions that purports to be a compendium of the applicable law as it pertains to the citizen

Civil Covenant of Solidarity

A contract by two individuals of the age of majority, of different or same gender, to provide legal rights and obligations as a result of their cohabitation

Civil Law

A body of law derived and evolved directly from Roman Law, the primary feature of which is that laws are struck in writing; codified, and not determined, as is common law, by the opinions of judges based on historic customs

Civil Union

A formal union between two people, of the same or of different genders which results in, but falls short of, marriage-like rights and obligations


A secret agreement between two or more persons, who seem to have conflicting interests, to abuse the law or the legal system, deceive a court or to defraud a third party

Common Law Relationship

Two unmarried persons living together as though married

Community Property

A marriage property legal term; property acquired or owned during a marriage or, where recognized, a marriage-like relationship, and which belongs, notwithstanding title, as in a partnership and as tenants in common (hence “community”), to each spouse equally and subject to division on that basis in the event of separation or divorce


Civil law term for an unmarried couple living nonetheless as husband and wife or, where same-sex relationships are recognized by law, such similar cohabitation relationships


Obvious or implied forgiveness


Secretly privy or accessory to the act of another


Companionship, love and affection and intimacy between husband and wife within a marriage

Corrective Force

Force used upon those over which an individual generally has guardian responsibilities, used to remove a dependent from a particular situation or to secure compliance with instructions


Conduct that causes bodily or mental injury, or apprehension to such injury, to a person or an animal, without legitimate purpose


Charge and control of a person or item of property

Decree Absolute

The name given to a final and conclusive court order after the condition of an interim or intervening order (decree nisi) is met

Decree Nisi

A provisional decision of a court which does not have force or effect until a certain condition is met such as another petition brought before the court or after the passage of a period time


The final, legal ending of a marriage, by Court order

Divorce a Mensa et Thoro

An obsolete form of divorce order which did not end the marriage but allowed the parties to reside separate; in effect, a legal or judicially-sanctioned separation of two married persons

Dum Casta

Latin: for so long as she remains chaste

Dum Sola

Latin: for so long as she remains unmarried

Dum Vidua

Latin: for so long as she remains a widow

Enoch Arden Law

A statute that allows a divorce in the event of the absence of a spouse for a number of years


An old common law action against any person who caused a husband to lose the love, services or society of his wife

En Ventre Sa Mere

French: A fetus recognized as a child then alive for the purposes of wills and estates


The seizing of a person’s property, credit or salary, on the basis of a law which allows it, and for the purposes of paying off a debt


An individual who, by legal appointment or by the effect of a written law, is given custody of both the property and the person of one who is unable to manage their own affairs, such as a child or mentally-disabled person


The office or duty of one who legally has the care and management of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child

Husband-Wife Privilege

A special right between married persons that allows them to keep communications between them secret and even inaccessible to a court of law

In Loco Parentis

A person who, though not the natural parent, has acted as a parent to a child and may thus be liable to legal obligations as if he/she were a natural parent


A false boast designed to increase standing at the expense of another

Joint Custody

A child custody Court decision that both parents share joint legal custody and joint physical custody

Joyce Model of Joint Guardianship

A British Columbia model of joint guardianship in respect to children as between separated parents


A blood or marriage relative

Kith and Kin Arrangement

An agreement between a child protection worker and a member of the child’s extended family or other person known to the child, to care for and financially support the child

Legal Custody

A child custody decision which entails the right to make, or participate in, the significant decisions affecting a child’s health and welfare (compare with physical custody and joint custody)


The obligation of one person to contribute, in part or in whole, to the cost of living of another person

Marital Property

Property acquired by either of two spouses while they are married together


The voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others

Marriage Agreement

An agreement between two persons in anticipation of or during the marriage, and in regards to rights and responsibilities as they may flow from the relationship


Of or relating to the state of being married; of marriage

Matrimonial Asset

An asset owned by one or both of two persons who are married to one another which, upon the application of one of the spouses to a court, is subject to division between them

Matrimonial Debt

A debt contracted during a marriage and for which both spouses are equally liable, regardless of who contracted the debt or who is directly liable for it

Matrimonial Property

Property owned by one or both of two persons who are married to one another which, upon the application of one of the spouses to a court, is subject to division between them


The legal state of being married


A young person not yet of the age of majority

Necessaries of Life

A product or service sold or provided to an individual not legally competent, which are useful to his or her comfort or convenience taking into account the age and condition of the individual

Occupational Rent

A matrimonial or joint tenant property compensatory claim based on an allegation that one spouse or joint tenant ought to be debited the value of her or his exclusive occupation of the family or jointly-held home


A person who has lost one or both of his or her natural parents

Parallel Parenting

A form of custody and guardianship order in which such authority transfers from parent to parent as the children are exchanged

Parens Patriae

Latin: inherent jurisdiction of the courts to make decisions concerning people who are not able to take care of themselves

Parental Alienation

A form of emotional child abuse where a custodial parent belittles or vilifies the other parent to the child


The person to whom payment is addressed or given


The person who makes required payment(s)

Per Quod Consortium Amisit

Latin: whereby he loses the company of his wife


The having of more than one husband by a wife


Being married to multiple wives or husbands at the same time

Postnuptial Agreement

A separation agreement


The act of separated spouses returning to family cohabitation


Abbreviation for Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders, an international system of enforcement of support orders

Separate Property

A marital property regime wherein property acquired or owned by a married person and which, notwithstanding the marriage or, where recognized, a marriage-like relationship, remains the separate property of the spouse who acquired or to whom was gifted the item of property

Separation Agreement

A private contract between separating spouses resolving issues of joint, family or marital property or assets, support and child responsibilities

Shared Custody

A family law support or maintenance term referring to a situation where a child spends about an equal amount of time in the care and home of each of the two separated or divorced parents, and the parents share the legal rights in regards to the child

Split Custody

A child custody decision which results in the splitting up of the children; that legal custody of one or more of the children is with the father, and that of one or more of the other children are with the mother

Spousal Support

Payments to an ex-spouse which are temporary or indefinite, lump sum or periodic, designed to pool and share the income of both spouses for that period of time necessary for the lower-income spouse to become economically self-sufficient


To be married or as if married


The willful and unjustified absence of a child from school


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act the American uniform child and spousal support legislation already adopted and implemented by most states

Undue Hardship

Special or specified circumstances that partially or fully exempt a person from performance of a legal obligation so as to avoid an unreasonable or disproportionate burden or obstacle

Unjust Enrichment

Benefiting from the action or property of another without legal justification


Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act of the United States, as created in 1950 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws


Siblings issue of a common mother


Being married