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Definitions - Legal Matrimonial Terms

Alphabetical A-Z

The following are short definitions of some of the legal terms found in a matrimonial case. Please ask to clarify any term you do not understand.

Action: The legal term for lawsuit.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts made under oath and signed before a lawyer. It is used primarily for motions.

Affidavit of Documents: The Court document setting out what documents a party has that are relevant to the case.

Alimony: Payment of support from one party to another. This term has been replaced by “ maintenance or support” and does not appear in any present day legal proceedings.

Answer: The document made in a divorce action that replies to the Application.

Appeal: The process whereby a higher court reviews the proceeding sresulting in an order or judgment of a lower court and determines whether there is an error.

Applicant: The person who brings an application under the Family Law Act of Divorce Act by way of an application or the person who brings an application to vary any court order.

Application: The first pleading in an action for divorce or under the Family Law Act.

Barrister and Solicitor: A Canadian lawyer, as a barrister the lawyer argues cases in court; as a solicitor, the lawyer practices in all other areas of law.

Book of Authorities: A book for the Judge containing the full text of the reasons for judgments which one party’s lawyer will argue shows a similar legal principle that should be followed in his/her case before the Judge.

Case Conference: A mandatory hearing before a Judge in order to obtain an opinion.

Certificate of Divorce: The document indicating a divorce has become final.

Cohabitation: Living together as spouses.

Cohabitation Agreement: A contract between spouses who agree to live together.

Contested Case: Any case in which there are one or more issues on which the parties have not agreed to.

Corollary relief: In divorce, a claim for relief in addition to divorce, e.g. support or custody.

Costs: A sum of money the court awards to the successful party to be paid by the unsuccessful party towards payment of the legal expenses of the successful party.

Cross-examination: A questioning of a witness under oath by a lawyer for the opposite party usually on an affidavit and financial statement for an impending motion.

Custody: The legal right and responsibility awarded by the ourt for the care, possession, and rearing of a child.

Disbursements: Expenses lawyers pay on behalf of their clients.

Divorce Order: The Court document setting forth the terms of the divorce and setting forth on what date the divorce becomes final.

Domestic Contract: A separation agreement, marriage contractor cohabitation agreement, Part IV of Family Law Act govern these contracts.

Equalization Payment: The amount paid by one party to the otherparty to equalize their respective net family properties.

Evidence: Documents, testimony, or other material offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations.

Ex-parte: This term has been replaced by “without notice” and is an application for relief without serving the other party.

Execution: Formal signing and witnessing of a legal document. Also, a writ of seizure and sale.

Factum: A court document setting out the main facts and the statute and case law which support the case at hand.

Family Law Act Application: The proceedings in which one party seeks relief for custody, equalization of assets, support or custody, but not a divorce.

Financial Statement: A court document showing the value of a spouse’s income, expenses, property and debts.

Interim Relief: An order for support or custody or some other issues (but not equalization of assets) until the proceeding is heard.

Joint Custody: An order giving custody to both parents; usually, this gives both parents input into decisions concerning the health,education, and welfare of the children, but the children may ordinarily reside with one parent.

Judgment: A final decision of the court handed down after trial.

Jurisdiction: The authority of the court to decideon an issue.

Minutes of Settlement: The written settlement agreement made when one party has started an action.

Motion: A written application to the court for some particular relief such as interim (temporary) support, interim custody or interimexclusive possession of the matrimonial home.

Net Family Property: The value of a party’s property on valuation date, less excluded property, less debts and liabilities on valuation day, less the net worth of the party on the date of marriage (other than a matrimonial home).

Net Family Property Statement: A court document showing what one party claims are his or her Net Family Property and also the other party’s Net Family Property and therefore the amount of the equalization payment.

Offer to Settle: A document formally stating all the termsupon which one party will settle a motion or the entire case on. This document is not seen by the Judge until after the motion or trial is decided.

Party: The person in a divorce action whose rights and/or interest sare to be affected by the divorce.

Pleading: The written documents for the court including application, answer and reply to answer.

Precedent: A court decision which other judges may follow in deciding on a similar case; an example of a legal document followed in preparing another similar document.

Questioning: An oral questioning under oath of the opposite party.

Relief: Whatever a party to divorce proceeding asks the court to do: dissolve the marriage, award support, enforce a prior court order, divide property, address certain behaviour, dismiss the complaint of the other party, and so on.

Respondent: The party who defends the divorce proceedings brought by another. The one who defends an application brought by another.

Rules of Evidence: The rules that govern the presentation and admissibility of oral and documentary evidence at court hearings.

Separation Agreement: A written agreement between two parties when no action has been started.

Settlement Conference: A mandatory hearing before a trial to obtain the opinion of a Judge.

Transcript: A typewritten record of testimony taken by a court reporter during questioning or a trial.

Trial: A formal court hearing to decide disputed issues raised by the pleadings.

Uncontested Divorce: A proceeding in which the parties have reached an oral agreement prior to consulting a lawyer or have a written separation agreement.

Undertaking: A written promise to do something.