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S – Washington DC Family Law Dictionary


SAFE HAVEN FOR CHILDREN – a federal program to make grants to states, units of government, and Indian tribal governments to work with nonprofit agencies to provide safe visitation for children in troubled domestic situations.

SAFE HOUSE – a residence in an undisclosed location where victims of abuse and minor children may live safe from the abuser.

SALES COMPARISON APPROACH – a set of procedures in which an appraiser derives a value indication by comparing the property being appraised to similar properties that have been sold recently, applying appropriate units of comparison, and making adjustments, based on the elements of comparison, to the sale prices of the comparables.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE – legally recognized marriage between two men or two woman.

SANCTIONS – court-ordered punishment.

SCOPE OF CONSENT – the parameters of a plaintiff’s permission, used by a court to analyze a defendant’s claim of privilege, which is a defense in tort and marital tort actions.

SECRETION OF ASSETS – the hiding of assets.

SELF-INCRIMINATION; THE RIGHT AGAINST – the right of the accused not to admit his or her criminal wrongdoing.

SEPARATE MAINTENANCE – an action filed for support between two spouses not living together even though the spouse’s are not actively seeking a divorce.

SEPARATE PROPERTY – property considered to be owned by one spouse prior to marriage, which in most states in not up for distribution upon divorce.

SEPARATION – when spouses no long co – habitate or live together.

SEPARATION AGREEMENT – an agreement on support, child care and property covering the period before divorce but after separation.

SERVICE OF PROCESS – the act of presenting the complaint or summons to the defendant or respondent.

SET ASIDE – to cancel, annul, or revoke a prior judgment of a court.

SETOFF – a debt or financial obligation of one spouse that the court weighs against a debt or financial obligation of the other spouse.

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT – the written version of the settlement.

SEVERABILITY – the understanding that one clause in a contract is independent of the others.

SEVERANCE PAY – compensation paid an employee, often when he or she is involuntarily terminated by an employer.

SHARED CUSTODY – custody shared by divorced parents.

SINGLE – filing status for unmarried people.

SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES – usually refers to female head of household families following the breakup of a marriage.

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS – a variety of benefits paid under the Social Security Act, providing insurance in old age, for survivors and in the event of disability.

SOLDIER AND SAILORS CIVIL RELIEF ACT OF 1940 (SSCRA) – a federal law governing (and protecting) military personnel from certain a pplications of civil law.

SOLE CUSTODY – a form of custody in which one parent is awarded both physical and legal custody.

SOURCE OF FUNDS – comes into play when a single asset has both marital and separate interests.

SPECIAL ADVOCATE – a special advocate appointed to a court to handle matters pertaining to children in cases of child abuse and neglect.

SPECIAL MASTER – a court-appointed individual, usually an attorney, who assists the court in moving a case forward.

SPECIAL SEPARATION BENEFITS (SSB) – a particular kind of military retirement benefit.

SPLIT CUSTODY – a form of custody in which the actual time of physical custody is split between both parents, which gives both parents the right to make decisions.

SPOUSAL ABUSE – mental, physical and emotional harm inflicted by one spouse on the other.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT – money paid from one spouse to the other in one lump sum or in installments for a period of time. There are many factors considered. (see spousal support section in your state).

SPOUSAL LIABILITY – a term used by the I.R.S. that means that one spouse is responsible for the tax liabilities of the other under the doctrine of joint and several liability.

SPOUSAL SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS – monthly cash payments to which a spouse, or former spouse, is entitled under the Social Security Act on account of the work history of the other spouse, and in the case of marital dissolution, the duration of the marriage.

SPOUSAL SURVIVORSHIP BENEFITS – the rights and interests of a surviving widow or widower, including the surviving former spouse, available under deferred pay plans upon the spouse’s death, either before or after reaching retirement age.

SPOUSE – husband or wife.

SSIP – stock and/or savings plan, a retirement/employment benefit.

STALKING – persistent and bothersome behavior of a rejected partner who cannot accept the end of a relationship.

STANDARD OF CARE – the test a court uses to determine whether or not a party acted negligently.

STANDARD OF EVIDENCE/PROOF – the test required to meet certain levels of proof, such as beyond a reasonable doubt, clear and convincing, preponderance of evidence.

STANDARD OF LIVING – the level of expenses — the so-called “lifestyle” — enjoyed by a couple during their marriage.

STARE DECISIS – a Latin term meaning “to stay with decided cases.”

STATE COURT – in the United States, courts established by the states and operating under state law, as opposed to federal courts.

STATUS CONFERENCE – a meeting with the judge before the trial to update the court on any progress the parties may have made in resolving issues.

STATUS QUO – a Latin term meaning “state in which.”

STATUTE – legislative law.

STATUTE OP LIMITATIONS – a term referring the period of time in which a claimant may file an action.

STAY; STAY THE PROCEEDINGS; STAY OF EXECUTION – the stopping a judicial proceeding, as in a court order.

STAY-AWAY ORDER – a court order requiring a party to stay away from another person.

STEPCHILDREN – children of a prior union who reside with one parent after his or her subsequent marriage to a new spouse.

STIPULATION – an agreement between the parties or their counsel.

STOCKS AND SECURITIES – an ownership interest in a company.

STRIKE; MOTION TO STRIKE – the removal from the record and docket of material found to be irrelevant, scandalous, or without proper notice.

STOCK OPTIONS – an asset or property interest that is divisible between divorcing spouses.

STRUCTURED SETTLEMENT – a series of smaller payments paid over time, as opposed to a lump-sum payment.

SUBCHAPTER S CORPORATION – a small business corporation that may decide to tax its undistributed income at regular income tax rates and thus avoid corporate income tax.

SUBPOENA – a document that is delivered to a person who is not directly involved in the action filed, but is in need for testimony.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM – a court order to produce documents as part of a discovery; subpoena duces tecum means “bring with you.”

SUBPOENA AD TESTIFICANDUM – s court order requiring a person to testify at a trial or give testimony at a deposition.

SUBSTITUTED SERVICE OF PROCESS – service of process to an attorney of record, not the defendant.

SUBSTITUTION OF AN ATTORNEY – a special pleading by which a court confirms a party’s change in legal representation.

SUCCESS FEE – a fee added to a lawyer’s hourly billings based on his or her appraisal of his or her performance in a legal action.

SUIT – same as an action, a lawsuit.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT – a procedural rule that allows judges to enter judgments without a trial, generally used when questions of law, not fact, are at issue.

SUMMATION – the closing argument, the final address given to the court by an attorney after the parties have rested and presented their respective cases.

SUMMONS – a written notification to the defendant or respondent that an action has been filed against him or her.

SUPPORT – payment for housing, food, clothing etc.

SURREBUTAL – evidence the defendant can present to counter rebuttal evidence.

SURVIVING AGREEMENT – an agreement said to be unmodifiable.

SURVIVORSHIP BENEFIT PLAN (SBP) – a deferred pay plan paying survivorship benefits to a remaining spouse or former spouse after the death of the member spouse.