Definitions & Terms

  1. A to E
  2. F to M
  3. N to R
  4. S to 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.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution - A method to resolve disagreements without the direct intervention of the court. See Arbitration, Conciliation, Mediation.
  • Appeal - An application to a higher court requesting a change of the judgment of a lower court.
  • Appearance 
    • Coming into court: The formal act by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court
    • Document identifying one who is representing himself or another. An attorney files an appearance making it known that (s)he is representing an individual.
  • Appellate Court - A court that reviews lower court decisions, generally on the record of the lower court.
  • 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) 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 another 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 a 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. See Mediation.
  • 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.


  • Defendant - The person against whom a lawsuit is started.
  • Delinquent - In regards to child support, an amount owed but not paid. (See Arrearage).
  • Dismissal - A court order terminating a particular case.
  • District Court - All criminal cases are started in the district court. The District Court hears all misdemeanors and civil cases under $10,000, including small claims.
  • Divorce - The legal termination of a marriage.
  • Domestic Relations Action - Any action involving families. Divorce, paternity, and family support actions are all considered domestic relations actions.
  • Domicile - The permanent home to which a person, when absent, always intends to return. (See Residence).


  • Emancipation - The act by which one attains adulthood. Emancipation may occur when a child reaches the age of majority, marries, enters military service, or by court order.
  • Enforcement - Activity engaged in by the Friend of the Court to bring an alleged violator of a court order into compliance.
  • Evidence - Proof allowed at a hearing. Evidence may be presented through the testimony of witnesses and by documents, records, and other material.
  • Ex Parte - On the request of one party only, without notice to any other party.
  • Ex Parte Order - An Order made by the court upon the request of one party without prior notice to the other party.