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– Washington DC Family Law Dictionary


CAPITAL ASSET – resources and property, excluding property held for resale in the normal course of business and other excluded categories under the Internal Revenue Code.

CAPITAL GAINS – the profits from an investment that have been held long term.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – a tax lower than ordinary income on the sale of capital assets.

CAPITALIZATION – the conversation of income into value.

CAPTION – the heading of a motion or other document illustrating the names of the plaintiff and the defendant, the name of the court, the court term and the identification number.

CASE IN CHIEF – the part of trial in which each party, respectively, presents his or her evidence, facts and issues to meet the appropriate burden of proof in the case.

CASE LAW – previous court rulings that apply in other cases.

CATHOLIC ANNULMENT – an ecclesiastical judgment within the Catholic church that a marriage is null.

CAUSE-IN-FACT – the specific stimulus for an incident, without which the incident would not have happened.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE – a written statement proving to the court that a copy of a document was served to the person for whom it was intended.

CERTIFIED COPY – a copy of the document contained in the court file. It includes a stamped seal confirming that the copy is indeed a true and correct copy of the document contained in the court file.

CERTIFIED DIVORCE PLANNER (CDP) – a specialist in providing financial advice to those who are divorced or contemplating divorce.

CERTIFIED DIVORCE FINANCIAL ANALYST (CDFA) TM – an expert who has passed examinations to become a specialist in divorce financial issues. May also be a Certified Financial Planner.

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP) – A specialist who has met the standards of the Certified Financial Planner Board Inc. (CFP Board).

CERTIFIED FRAUD EXAMINER – a professional trained to unravel complicated financial scenarios looking for fraudulent manipulation of assets and liabilities.

CERTIORARI – Latin term meaning “to be informed of.”

CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCE – term used as cause to modify an existing court order, either increasing or decreasing the amounts of spousal and/or child support.

CHANGE OF VENUE – a change of judges when one side one side feels the present judge is prejudice.

CHARGING LIEN – the right of a lawyer to be paid from the proceeds of the final divorce settlement.

CHART CHILD SUPPORT METHOD – the method used in some legal areas to establish a basis for determining child support. It takes into consideration the gross income of both parents, less special adjustments such as support for children of a previous marriage, and a set amount of money to be allotted monthly for the child. The court has the authority to digress from the said formula as it decides is necessary in each case.

CHATTEL – personal property.

CHILD ABUSE – a situation where the parent or care giver of a minor child allows, inflicts or permits physical or sexual abuse or allows a situation where there is a risk of physical injury.

CHILD CUSTODY – deals with the living arrangements and the legal decision – making concerning the child (see child custody section in your state).

CHILD NEGLECT – a situation where a minor child lacks adequate care and is danger of physical or psychological harm.

CHILD SUPPORT – the money the non – custodial parent pays to the custodial parent to help pay for the needs of the child.

CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT – the ways and means child support is collected and enforced.

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES – a series of mathematical formulas that help derive the proper amount of child support that should be awarded.

CHILD SUPPORT WORKSHEET – a court form devised to calculate the child support guidelines.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (CHIP) – a 1997 federally funded plan providing health insurance to uninsured children.

CITATION – an order from a court requiring a court appearance.

CIVIL ANNULMENT – a judgment of nullity of a marriage in the secular courts.

CIVIL COURT – the court which presides over non – criminal cases.

CLAIM – the charge by one spouse against another.

CLASSIFICATION OF ASSETS – in a divorce, a preliminary to distribution of property.

CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE – a standard of proof in a civil case, refers to the difficulty faced by a litigant in prove his case.

CLEAR TITLE – transferring ownership of an asset without any encumbrances, obstructions or burdens that present any reasonable question of law or fact.

CLERK – the person responsible for keeping court records and procedures in an orderly fashion.

CLOSELY HELD BUSINESS – a private company.

CLOSELY HELD CORPORATION – a corporate entity with privately owned stock, as opposed to one traded publicly on an exchange.

COBRA – Federal Legislation which guarantees that all individuals who are covered by medical insurance have the right to continue coverage for a monthly fee if employment changes or marital status changes.

COERCION – pressure, either implied or expressed or both, that negates free choice.

COHABITATION – two people living together. Often time a period of cohabitation is written.

COLA – the cost of living adjustment (a COLA offset).

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE – a less costly, litigation-free way of settling disputes by which two parties agree in writing not to use court action.

COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE – other parties, such as mental health and financial professionals, who work toward agreements in collaborative agreements.

COLLATERAL – property pledged as security for a loan or debt.

COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL – a bar to relitigation of issues that have already been tried.

COLLUSION – in a divorce, the agreement between estranged partners for one to commit an act that would justify a divorce.

COMITY – courtesy, and the judicial doctrine that states respect the orders, decrees and judgment of other jurisdictions.

COMMINGLED ASSETS – mixing of assets, separate and marital.

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE – a marriage in which no formal ceremony took place and no license exists.

COMMON LAW PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION – the method of dividing property in a divorce according to who holds the title to the property.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY – all income or property that was acquired during the marriage, with exception to gifts or inheritances.

COMPARABLES – a shortened term for competitive property sales, rentals, or operating expenses used for comparison in the valuation process.

COMPLAINT – the initial pleading filed for divorce with specific grounds states. (see legal process section).

COMPLAINANT – the party who initiates the complaint.

CONCILIATION – the attempt to establish an agreement between the divorcing spouses concerning the children and any other areas in which they do not agree.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW – the propositions of law a judge in a bench trial applies to the facts after they have been found.

CONDONATION – when misconduct of a spouse is no longer grounds of divorce due to the act of forgiveness.

CONFESSION OF – a person’s voluntary admission to a debt and the submission of it the jurisdiction of the court.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST – when any professional is not capable of performing services due to previous relationships or present relationships and/or a situation where confidentiality can be broken.

CONFLICT OF LAWS — a situation that may arise when parties live in one state and divorce in another.

CONNIVANCE – the secret consent to another’s commission of an unlawful act.

CONSENT – a general term used to mean an agreement, particularly in conjunction as an affirmative defense to tort claims including assault, battery, trespass and fraudulent conversion.

CONSOLIDATION – the joining of two related cases.

CONSTRUCTIVE DESERTION – the refusal of one spouse to engage in sexual relations with the other spouse. In some states and provinces this is considered grounds for divorce if lasting for a certain length of time.

CONSTRUCTIVE KNOWLEDGE – information that is inferred, implied or imputed to one by a judicial interpretation based on the context of the facts at issue.

CONSTRUCTIVE SERVICE OF PROCESS – when the service of process is delivered through other methods such as a newspaper due to the unknown where abouts of the spouse.

CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST – a trust in favor of a deserving party created by operation of equitable law against someone who by questionable means and improper conduct obtains or holds the title to property that he or she should not.

CONTEMPT OF COURT – any deliberate failure to comply with the legal process, including the disruption of the court.

CONTESTED DIVORCE – a divorce where at least one issue has not been settled before court. The court must decide the issue or issues.

CONTINGENT FEE – an agreement which specifies that the attorney does not get paid unless the client wins the case. This type of arrangement is generally not allowed in divorce and custody cases.

CONTINUE – the act of postponing a scheduled court hearing to a later time.

CONTUMACIOUS – conduct that a litigant that is contemptuous, stubborn, and intentionally disobedient of the court.

CONVEY – to transfer property to someone by selling it or by other means.

CO-PARENTING PLAN – a plan for cooperatively raising the children after the divorce.

COST APPROACH – a set of procedures in which an appraiser derives a value indication by estimating the current cost to reproduce or replace the existing structure, deducting for all accrued depreciation in the property, and adding the estimated land value.

COST BASIS – the purchase price of an asset, used to calculate appreciated value, and upon sale the capital gains tax.

COUNT – a statement of facts that clearly defines the complaint.

COUNSEL FEES PENDENTE LITE, MOTION FOR – a motion by the spouse requesting sufficient funds from the other spouse or the marital estate to prosecute or defend a divorce action.

COUNTERCLAIM – a pleading filed by the defendant (respondent) against the plaintiff ( petitioner ).

COURT APPOINTED BEST INTEREST ATTORNEY – similar to what had been referred to as a guardian ad litem, appointed for the benefit of a minor child, often in custody battle or parental termination action.

COURT CLERK – the administrative personnel of the court who handles the filings for court procedures and answers questions concerning them.

COURT DOCKET – the record of proceedings before the court.

COURT CUSTODY INVESTIGATOR – a person appointed by the court to investigate matters related to children in a divorce action and report to the court.

COURT ORDER – a written document ordering a person to do something. It is issued by a court and signed by a judge.

COURT REPORTER – the person who records testimony during some court proceedings and depositions.

COVENANT – an agreement between to parties, signed and delivered, by which the parties pledge that something shall or shall not be done, or that stipulates that certain facts are true.

COVERTURE – the period of time a party is married.

COVERTURE FRACTION – a mathematical formula used to calculate the percentage of a pension distributed to a noncontributory spouse in a divorce action.

CREDITOR – a person to whom money is owed.

CROSS-EXAMINATION – the questioning of a witness of the opposing party in court or at a deposition. The purpose is to test the credibility or pursue advantageous avenues.

CROSS NOTICE OF MOTION; NOTICE OF CROSS MOTION – a pleading in which the cross-moving party puts the court and other parties on notice that he or she is requesting specific items of judicial relief.

CROSS-PETITION – a statement of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage issued by the respondent. It will be different than that of the petitioner.

CROSS REFERENCE CASE – a separate case involving one parent in common, but in which there are other children from a different mother or father. Either parent can have cross reference cases.

CRUELTY OF TREATMENT – ground for divorce in a fault action requiring the plaintiff to prove physical or emotional harm to himself or herself.

CURABLE DEPRECIATION – items of physical deterioration and functional obsolescence that are economically feasible to cure.

CURTESY – the husband’s common law right to inherit from his wife.

CUSTODIAL PARENT – the parent a child normally lives with, and the one who makes legal decisions concerning the child. There are several different types of custody arrangements. (see child custody section in your state).

CUSTODY – the legal right and responsibility to raise a minor child and to make decisions.

CUSTODY FORENSIC EVALUATION – an evaluation including interviews, psychological testing and home visits undertaken in conjunction with child custody.

CUSTODY – LEGAL – the legal right and responsibility to raise a minor child and to make decisions on her or his behalf. “Joint,” “split,” “and “shared” legal custody require both parents’ approval for all major decisions.

CUSTODY – PHYSICAL – defines the physical location of the child. The parent with whom the child resides is said to have physical or residential custody.