Glossary of Terms

Below is a list of terms / phrases and their definitions that are commonly used in the court system.

  1. A - C
  2. D - M
  3. O - Z

Abatement - To reduce, diminish or temporarily suspend.

Adjournment - The postponing or putting off of a case or session of court until another time or place.

Adjudication - A final judicial determination by the giving of a Judgment or a decree in a civil case.

Adoption - The act by which a person takes the child of another into his or her own family and makes the child, for all legal purposes, his or her own child.

Adversary Proceedings - Actions contested by opposing parties.

Affidavit - A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation.

Aid to Families with Dependent Children - A program of public assistance administered by the Family Independence Agency.

Alimony - See spousal support in Friend of the Court Handbook (PDF).

Alternative Dispute Resolution - A method to resolve disagreements without the direct intervention of the court. See Arbitration, Conciliation, and/or Mediation in the Friend of the Court Handbook (PDF).

Appeal - An application to a higher court requesting a change of the judgment of a lower court.

Appellate Court - A court that reviews lower court decisions, generally on the record of the lower court.

Appearance -

  1. Coming into court: The formal act by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court.
  2. Document identifying one who is representing himself or another. An attorney files an "appearance" making it known that (s)he is representing an individual.

Arbitration / Binding Mediation - A procedure for the determination of a disputed matter. Legally binding, as opposed to mediation.

Arrearage - Money that is overdue.

Attorney - A lawyer; a person admitted to legal practice who is qualified to represent the legal interests of another person.

Bail Bond - A financial obligation that guarantees a person's future appearance in court.

Bench Warrant - An order issued by the court from the bench (judge) for the arrest of a person, so that (s)he may be brought before the court.

Burden of Proof - The duty to establish facts in a dispute. In civil matters, this burden may be a "preponderance of the evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence."

Caseload - The number of cases a Friend of the Court caseworker handles at any given time.

Cash Bond - A payment of a specific amount of money to guarantee future support payments will be made.

Certified Copy - A copy of an order signed and certified as an exact true copy by the officer of the court having possession of the original order.

Change of Venue - Transfer or removal of a case to a court of anther geographical location and jurisdiction, either because it should have been there in the first place, or for the convenience of the parties or witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be had in the original court location.

Chief Judge - In courts with two or more judges, one judge is selected as chief judge. The chief judge is the director of the administration of the court.

Child Abuse / Neglect - Mistreatment of a minor by an adult legally responsible for the minor.

Child Born Out-of-Wedlock - A child born to parents who are not married to one another.

Child Support - Payment of money for a child in a divorce, paternity, or family support act proceeding. Support includes health care, and may include educational and childcare expenses.

Child Support Formula - Factors considered by the Friend of the Court and the Prosecuting Attorney when making a recommendation, and by the circuit court when making a determination for an appropriate amount of child support. Both parents' incomes are considered under the formula.

Child Support Guidelines - See Child Support Formula.

Circuit Court - The trial court in Michigan that ears many types of cases. Domestic relations actions are tried in this court.

Commit - The act of sending a person to jail, pursuant to a court order.

Complaint - The original pleading in a domestic relations matter. In this pleading, the plaintiff alleges the basis for the suit and states the remedy requested.

Conciliation - A method of Alternative Dispute Resolution utilized by many Friend of the Court offices. The conciliator attempts to assist parties in resolving disputes, but may prepare a recommendation if the parties are not able to reach agreement on issues. 

Contempt of Court Hearing - Also known as a "show cause" hearing. A court hearing in which the person alleged to be in violation of the court order has the opportunity to show good cause why (s)he did not comply.

Counsel - An attorney.

Custody - Care and keeping of anything, i.e., children in a domestic relations action.