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– Washington DC Family Law Dictionary


MAJORITY – refers to legal age and varies from state to state; commonly eighteen to twenty-one.

MAGISTRATE – a person who performs the functions of a judge but does not have the power to issue a court order. Judges sometimes pass work, hearings and trials, to magistrates or masters who then in turn make recommendations to the judge as to the particulars of the case.

MAINTENANCE – the same as spousal support or alimony.

MALPRACTICE (LEGAL) -improper or incompetent behavior by an attorney.

MANDATORY FACTORS (TO BE CONSIDERED BY THE COURT) – the factors a court must consider before making a final decision about property, child support and alimony.

MANDATORY SELF-DISCLOSURE – a court rule requiring that the parties in suit make financial disclosures to one another within a certain period after the suit has begun.

MARITAL ASSETS, PROPERTY, ESTATE – property that is acquired by the spouses during the marriage.

MARITAL FAULT – a necessary element in a fault divorce.

MARITAL HOME – the house that a marriage made into a habit of the heart and a state of mind.

MARITAL PORTION – a share of a pension accrued during a marriage, including inflation protection.

MARITAL TORT – a tort action between spouses.

MARITAL PROPERTY – property that is acquired by the spouses during the marriage. It typically does not include any property owned prior to marriage.

MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT – a written agreement entered into by the spouses getting divorced stating their rights and agreements pertaining to property, support and custody.

MARKETABILITY DISCOUNT – a term used to reflect the lack of liquidity in a party’s interest in a private business.

MARKET ANALYSIS – a study conducted by a real estate broker, not an appraiser, showing the value of a particular piece of real estate by comparing it with a comparable piece of real estate recently sold.

MARKETABLE TITLE – a title not subject to reasonable doubt or suspicion of invalidity in the mind of a reasonable and intelligent person: one which a prudent person guided by competent legal advice would be willing to accept and purchase at market value.

MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE – the official certification of a marriage.

MARRIED FILING JOINTLY – a tax filing status for married people that creates joint and several liability.

MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY – a tax filing status for married people that does not create joint and several liability but creates special rules for married filers in community property states.

MASTER – a court appointed individual, usually an attorney, who assists the court in moving a case forward. Now called Magistrates in Maryland.

MATERIAL FACT – important act, event or truth.

MATERNAL PREFERENCE – the tendency of twentieth century courts to award children to the mother. This has been abolished in Maryland and DC.

MEDIATION – a non – adversarial divorce procedure where the spouses are assisted in reaching a settlement by a neutral third party that is trained in the divorce process.

MEDIATOR – a neutral person who presides over the mediation process.

MEDICAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT (MSA) – a special tax-free account to pay for medical costs incurred under special low-cost, high-deductible medical insurance policies.

MEDICARE – a national medical insurance program that is part of the Social Security Act, covering medical, hospital and drugs for older people.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW – a legal document filed with pleadings and court papers setting forth research in support of a request of the court.

MILITARY ALLOTMENT – a deduction from child support from the salary of a noncustodial parent on active duty in the United States military.

MILITARY DIVORCE – a divorce involving an member of the uniformed services and his or her spouse, who may or may not be in the military.

MINORITY – being under the age of majority.

MINORITY DISCOUNT – applied sometimes to valuing a private business and reflecting the lack of control of a minority shareholder or owner.

MISDEMEANOR – an offense less serious than a felony, usually punishable by a fine or less than a year in prison.

MISREPRESENTATION – intentional deceit, by speech or actions, to the detriment of another.

MISTRIAL – a trial that is terminated due to some kind of error that would declare the trial invalid.

MODIFICATION – an order changing the terms of another order.

MONETARY DAMAGES – a cash award by a court to a plaintiff to compensate him or her for loss, damage or injury sustained as a result of the defendant’s misconduct.

MORTGAGE – a written statement by the owner, who is called the mortgagor, to the lender, who is called the mortgagee, giving the lender an interest in the property — the land and improvements — to assure repayment of the debt.

MOTION – a written or oral request to the court for some type of action.

MOTION TO MODIFY – a written request of the court to change a previous order regarding child custody, support, alimony or other divorce – related decisions.