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For Students at IBMC


The act of creating the relationship of parent and child between persons who do not naturally share that relationship. n. acceptance, embracement, approval, assumption ("their adoption of a hostile stance"); fostering, fosterage, raising ("adoption of the homeless child")


A grown person; one who is no longer a child. "Adult" is not a technical legal word


Sexual intercourse by a married person with a person who is not his or her spouse. n. infidelity, affair, unfaithfulness, cuckoldry

affiliation proceeding

A judicial proceeding to establish the paternity of an illegitimate child and to compel the father to contribute to its support. See also paternity suit.


Ongoing support payments by a divorced spouse, usually payments made for maintenance of the former spouse. Alimony is not child support. See also palimony. n. support, maintenance, sustenance, allowance

annulment of marriage

The act of a court in voiding a marriage for causes existing at the time the marriage was entered into (EXAMPLE: the existing marriage of one of the parties). Annulment differs from divorce in that it is not a dissolution of the marriage but a declaration that no marriage ever existed


Before marriage. adj. prenuptial, premarital

antenuptial agreement

See premarital agreement.


Payments past due. EXAMPLE: A person may be in arrears in alimony payments or in arrears on a mortgage. n. unpaid debts, obligations, delinquency, overdue payments ("arrears in alimony")


The crime of marrying while already married to another.

ceremonial marriage

A marriage performed by an appropriate religious or civil official, after the parties have met all legal requirements (EXAMPLE: securing a marriage license). See also solemnization of marriage. Compare common law marriage


1. A very young person. Compare minor. 2. Offspring; progeny; descendent. Compare heir. "Child" is not a technical legal term with a definite meaning. Its meaning is always subject to construction in the context in which it is used. n. kid, adolescent, minor, youth, juvenile

child abuse

The physicial, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse of a young person. Child abuse includes the neglect of a child. It is a crime in every state. See also child abuse reporting acts.

child abuse reporting acts

State statutes that make specified persons (EXAMPLES: physicians, teachers) responsibile for reporting suspected child abuse

child stealing

The taking or removal of a child from a parent or from a person awarded custody. This is also the crime committed when a child is abducted from the custody of one parent by the other, although it is commonly called parental kidnapping.

child support

1. Money paid, pending divorce and after divorce, by one parent to the other for the support of their children. See also nonsupport, support. 2. The obligation of parents to provide their children with the necessities of life.

civil union

An alternative to full marriage for gay couples, also known as "civil partnership." . The state confers the rights of inheritance, joint ownership of property, health benefits, and other civil rights to same-sex couple


1. Living together as man and wife, although not married to each other. 2. Living together. 3. Having sexual intercourse. n. living together, common-law marriage, alliance, union, residing together ant. separation

common law marriage

A marriage entered into without ceremony, the parties agreeing between themselves to be husband and wife, followed by a period of cohabitation where the parties hold themselves out as actually married. Common law marriages are valid in some states but invalid in most. Compare ceremonial marriage

community property

A system of law under which the earnings of either spouse are the property of both the husband and the wife, and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage (other than by gift, under a will, or through inheritance) is the property of both. States that have adopted this system are called community property states. Compare equitable distribution.


The forgiveness by one spouse of the other's conduct that constitutes grounds for divorce. Condonation is a defense to a divorce action based upon the conduct that has been condoned. n. forgiveness, pardon, overlooking, clemency, discharge, acquittal


As a defense in an action for divorce, fraudulent consent by one spouse to the other spouse's engaging in conduct that constitutes grounds for divorce. Compare no-fault divorce. n. conspiracy, collusion, consent, overlooking, condoning


The rights and duties of both husband and wife, resulting from marriage. They include companionship, love, affection, assistance, comfort, cooperation, and sexual relations. See also loss of consortium.


The infliction of physical or mental pain or distress. As a ground for divorce, "cruelty" means physical violence or threats of physical violence, or mental distress willfully caused. n. brutality, harshness, spitefulness, viciousness, torture, violence ant. sympathy, kindness


The rights a husband had under the common law with respect to his wife's property. Today these rights have been modified in every state in various ways, but all states that retain curtesy in some form extend the same rights to both spouses. Note that "curtesy" is not "courtesy


As applied to persons, physical contact. (EXAMPLES: Parents customarily "have physical custody" of their children; although, in the event of divorce, one parent may have sole custody, or both parents have joint custody or divided custody.) Custody carries with it the obligation on the part of the custodian to maintain and care for the person in his charge for the duration of their relationship. n. care, control, protection, possession, management, restraint


n. The final order of a court. For all practical purposes, the distinction between decrees and judgments no longer exists, and all relief in all civil actions, whether legal or equitable, is obtained by means of judgment. v. To order, to dictate, to ordain, to enact, to command. n. mandate, commandment, directive, ordinance, statute, decision, ruling


1. As a ground for divorce, a voluntary separation of one of the parties to a marriage from the other without the consent of or without having been wronged by the second party, with the intention to live apart and without any intention to return to the cohabitation. 2. The criminal abandonment of a child in neglect of the parental duty of support.

dissolution of marriage

1. The termination of a marriage, whether by annulment, divorce a vinculo, or no-fault divorce. 2. A term for divorce in some no-fault states

divided custody

An arrangement under which the child of divorced parents lives a portion of the time with one parent and a portion of the time with the other. Legal custody, however, remains at all times with one of the parents. Compare joint custody. See also custody.


A dissolution of the marital relationship between husband and wife. Compare alimony. See also no-fault divorce. n. separation, division, break, break-up, parting, disunion v. rescind, dismiss, annul, cease, dissolve

divorce a vinculo matrimonii

A decree that dissolves the marriage because of matrimonial misconduct. Also called absolute divorce. Compare no-fault divorce.

divorce from bed and board

A decree that terminates the right of cohabitation, and adjudicates matters such as custody and support, but does not dissolve the marriage itself. A divorce a mensa et thoro is often referred to as legal separation, judicial separation, or limited divorce. Compare divorce a vinculo matrimonii; no-fault divorc

domestic relations

The field of law relating to domestic matters, such as marriage, divorce, support, custody, and adoption; family law.

elder law

A field of law with statutes and regulations designed to protect the elderly. Elder law encompasses a variety of legal issues such as wills, trusts and estates, long-term care, guardianships, elder abuse, health care, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare

equitable adoption

The principle that a child may enforce in equity a promise to adopt him, at least to the extent that he will be given rights of inheritance with respect to the property of the person who made the promise.

equitable distribution

Some jurisdictions permit their courts, in a divorce case, to distribute all property obtained during the marriage on an "equitable" basis. In deciding what is equitable, the court takes into consideration factors such as the length of the marriage and the contributions of each party, including homemaking. Compare community property


A word of great flexibility, the meaning of which varies according to the context in which it appears. In its most common usage, it means the persons who live under one roof and under one head or management. A family is not necessarily limited to a father and mother (or a father or mother) and children. In another of its common uses, "family" refers to persons who are of the same bloodline, or are descended from a common ancestor. n. classification, progeny, descendants, household, family unit, issue

family court

A court whose jurisdiction varies from state to state. It may hear domestic relations cases; it may hear juvenile court matters; it may also try child abuse cases and oversee paternity suits

family law

Area of the law concerned with domestic relations

foreign divorce

A divorce granted in a state or country other than the couple's state of residence.

foster child

A child brought up by a person who is not her biological parent. Compare adoption.

foster parent

A person who rears a foster child.

gay marriage

The relationship of two men or two women legally united as spouses, first legalized by Massachusetts and other foreign jurisdictions. See also civil union

guardian ad litem

A person appointed by the court to represent and protect the interests of a minor or an incompetent person during litigation

HLA testing

Abbreviation of human leukocyte antigen testing. An HLA blood test is a paternity test

imputed income

1. The benefit a person obtains through performance of her own services or through the use of her own property. Generally, this is not subject to taxes. Example: If you are a carpenter and make repairs to your home, these services would not be subject to tax. 2. Benefits that accrue when no money is received. Example: when an employer offers free health insurance to employees and their families, this would be imputed income.


Conflict in personality and temperament. As a requirement for no-fault divorce, a conflict so deep it cannot be altered or adjusted, rendering it impossible for the parties to continue to live together in a normal marital relationship.


A person who has not reached the age of majority and who therefore is under a civil disability; non-age, minority. The period of life when one is a young child

irreconcilable differences

A requirement for divorce or dissolution of marriage in some states with no-fault divorce laws. The term itself means that because of dissension and personality conflicts, the marriage relationship has been destroyed and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. See also irremedial breakdown of marriage.

irremedial breakdown of marriage

A requirement for no-fault divorce in some states. See also irreconcilable differences. n. irretrievable breakdown of marriage

joint custody

An arrangement whereby both parties to a divorce retain legal custody of their child and jointly participate in reaching major decisions concerning the child's welfare


adj. Young, youthful, immature. n. infant, youth, youngster, minor, teenager, ward, teen. adj. childish, inexperienced, sophomore, irresponsible, infantile, adolescent. ant. adult

juvenile court

A court having special jurisdiction over juvenile offenders, as well as abused and neglected children

juvenile offender

A minor who breaks the law. A juvenile offender is sometimes referred to as a delinquent child or a youthful offender


The state of having been born to parents who are married to each other

loss of consortium

The loss of a spouse's assistance or companionship, or the loss of a spouse's ability or willingness to have sexual relations. If such loss results from a tort, it gives rise to a cause of action in favor of the partner of the spouse injured by the tort. See also consortium


The support of a person. See also support. n. upkeep, conservation, preservation, care, protection, help, aid, finances, alimony, subsistence, livelihood ("maintenance for her health")


Legal age; full age, the age at which a person acquires the capacity to contract; the age at which a person is no longer a minor. The age of majority varies from state to state and differs depending on the purpose. EXAMPLES: eligibility for a driver's license; eligibility to vote; the right to buy alcoholic beverages. Compare minority

marital agreement

An agreement between two people who are married to each other (a post-nuptial agreement), or two people who are about to marry (a prenuptial agreement), with respect to the disposition of the marital property or property owned by either spouse before the marriage, with respect to the rights of either in the property of the other, or with respect to support


1. The relationship of a man and a woman legally united as husband and wife. Marriage is a contract binding the parties until one dies or until a divorce or annulment occurs. 2. The act of becoming married; the marriage ceremony. See also common law marriage, gay marriage, and civil union. n. matrimony, wedlock, nuptial state, nuptials, sacrament, espousal ("to be joined in marriage") ant. divorce

marriage certificate

A certificate that evidences a marriage, prepared by the person officiating at the ceremony and usually required by state law. Compare marriage license.

marriage license

Authorization to marry issued by the state in which the ceremony is to occur. It is a condition precedent to a ceremonial marriage. Compare marriage certificate.

merger in judgment

The extinguishment of a cause of action by entry of a judgment. EXAMPLE: The obligation to pay money under a separation agreement is superseded by a judgment for alimony


A person who has not yet attained her majority; a person who has not reached legal age; a person who has not acquired capacity to contract. See infant. Compare majority.

no-fault divorce

A term for the requirements for divorce in jurisdictions in which the party seeking the divorce need not demonstrate that the other party is at fault. The requirements differ from state to state. EXAMPLES include irreconcilable differences, irremedial breakdown of marriage, and irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

non-marital children

Children not related to or connected with the marriage


Alimony paid upon the break-up of a live-in relationship between two people who were not married to each other. In some states, such payment may be ordered by a court if the parties entered into an express contract or if the court finds the existence of an implied contract. In others, court-ordered palimony is based upon quantum meruit. In still others, palimony is considered to be contrary to public policy and is not recognized by the law.


A division made between two or more persons of land or other property belonging to them as co-owners, usually pursuant to a divorce action.


The status of being a father. n. fatherhood, derivation, ancestry, lineage, descent.

paternity suit

A proceeding to establish the paternity of a child born out of wedlock, usually for the purpose of compelling the father to support the child. See also affiliation proceeding.

prenuptial agreement

An agreement between a man and a woman who are about to be married, governing the financial and property arrangements between them in the event of divorce, death, or even during the marriage. Prenuptial agreements are also called antenuptial agreements, antenuptial settlements, or premarital agreements. See also marital agreement.


The act of resolving differences. In domestic relations law, a resumption of cohabitation by spouses who have been living apart. n. restoration, conciliation, rapprochement, concordance, rapport, dentent


A defense in an action for divorce based upon the misconduct by the plaintiff which would itself be grounds for divorce if the defendant had brought an action against the plaintiff. n. countercharge, retort, rejoinder, counterattack, reprisal, blame, retribution

same-sex marriage

The relationship of two men or two women legally united as spouses, first legalized by Massachusetts and other foreign jurisdictions. See also civil union


The status of a husband and wife who live separately. The state of being apart or coming apart. n. detachment, disrelation, disassociation, partition, parting, rupture, disunion, alienation

separation agreement

An agreement between husband and wife who are about to divorce or to enter into a legal separation, settling property rights and other matters (EXAMPLES: custody, child support, visitation, alimony) between them. Separation agreements are subject to court approval. See also marital agreement

solemnization of marriage

The performance of the marriage ceremony


The performance of a formal ceremony; to act with formality. See also solemnization of marriage


A husband or wife, a marriage partner. n. wife, husband, mate, companion, partner


A wife, in her relationship to her spouse's child by a former marriage; a husband, in his relationship to his spouse's child by a former marriage


To provide funds or other means of maintenance of a person.


A person who acts for another. n. alternate, substitute, agent, vicarious, actor, delegate, proxy, stand-in ("surrogate mother")

surrogate motherhood

The status of a woman who "hosts" the fertilized egg of another woman in her womb or who is artificially inseminated with the sperm of a man who is married to someone else and to whom (with his wife) she has agreed to assign her parental rights if the child is delivered.

tenancy by the entirety

A form of joint tenancy in an estate in land or in personal property that exists between husband and wife by virtue of the fact that they are husband and wife. As with a conventional joint tenancy, a tenancy by the entirety is a tenancy with right of survivorship. "Tenancy," in this context, means ownership of the jointly held estate or interest, whether, for EXAMPLE, it is a fee simple estate, a life estate, a savings account, or the like

tender years

A term used to describe minors, particularly when they are very young. USAGE: "a child of tender years."


Short for visitation rights, i.e., the right of a divorced parent who does not have custody of his child to visit the child at such times and places as the court may order

void marriage

A marriage absolutely prohibited by law. EXAMPLE: Marriage with a person who is not of age


The state of being married; marriage. n. marriage, matrimony, connubiality, union

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