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– Washington DC Family Law Dictionary


BAD FAITH – a person’s or entity’s intentional dishonest or corrupt action, pattern or plan.

BAILIFF – the court attendant in charge of maintaining order in the courtroom.

BANKRUPTCY – a legal proceeding in which a person who is financially insolvent requests the federal bankruptcy court to determine his or her debts and use his or her assets to pay those debts.

BATTERER – a person who uses violence and/or threats of physical, sexual or emotional violence against a member of the household or in a dating relationship.

BATTERER INTERVENTION PROGRAM (BIP) – a program aimed at violent people who abuse members of a household or partners in a romantic relationship.

BATTERER PROFILE – a controlling individual who probably witnessed abuse and was abused as a child, has poor impulse control, suffers low self-esteem but can be very charming and seductive early in a relationship, and then without apparent reason becomes explosive and angry.

BENCH TRIAL – a trial before a judge, without a jury; generally the only trial available in a court of equity.

BENCH WARRANT – an order issued by a court for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear in court as ordered. Can also be issued for a witness who has failed to appear in response to a subpoena.

BENEFICIARY – a person who benefits from another’s act or action, such as a will, insurance, and annuity.

BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD – a discretionary legal standard that pertains to support, visitation and custody.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT– the highest and most demanding standard for burden on proof, required in criminal cases, not the burden of proof in civil actions.

BIENES GANACIALES – a term from Spanish law related to a special type of marital property ownership that excluded the estate each spouse had before marriage, but recognized a particular community interest that accumulated during the marriage.

BIFURCATION; BIFURCATED TRIAL – in some jurisdictions, where the grounds for divorce and the property rights and support obligations are tried separately.

BIGAMY – a criminal offense committed when one spouse enters a marriage when the previous marriage has not been terminated.

BILL OF PARTICULARS – the formal title for information attached to a complaint or petition.

BILL OF SALE — a written agreement certifying the transfer or assignment of rights, interest in chattels to another, thereby granting legal ownership.

BILLABLE HOURS – a lawyer’s professional time in a legal matter, excluding administrative time, sometimes graduated to tenths of an hour.

BINDING ARBITRATION — conflict resolution in which the parties agree in advance to comply with the decision of the arbitrator.

BINOMINAL or LATTICE MODEL – used to value or price stock options.

BLACK HOLE — the legal vacuum that happens when a spouses dies during a divorce, leaving the surviving spouse without recourse either under the state’s divorce or probate law.

BLACK-SCHOLES MODEL – used to value or price stock options.

BLOOD TEST – the process by which blood is drawn from a child and its parents and tested to determine biological parentage. It involves genetic HLA and DNA testing.

BONA FIDE – truthfully, honestly and without deceit.

BOND OF MARRIAGE – the creation of a connubial union between husband and wife, with all the privileges and duties of spouses.

BONA FIDE – honestly, openly, without deceit.

BREACH OF CONTRACT – a party’s failure to perform according to the terms set forth in a contract.

BREACH OF DUTY – a party’s failure or disregard of a lawful or ethical duty.

BRIEF – a document presented to the court outlining one side’s position.

BURDEN OF PROOF – one spouse must prove to the court any claims made against the opposing spouse. The claims must be supported with sufficient evidence.

BUY and SELL AGREEMENT – an arrangement, which is particularly common in a closely held corporation or partnership, whereby the surviving owners agree in advance to purchase the interest of a deceased or withdrawing owner.

BUY OUT – a method used in the distribution of marital assets whereby one spouse acquires the interests in marital assets or community property for a lump sum or payments over time.