Terminology

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This section offers my own plain-language definitions of common legal words and phrases. For more complete, more precise definitions you might want to have a look at Black's Law Dictionary, an American reference book published by Thomson West, or at Barron's Canadian Law Dictionary. Many public libraries will carry one or both of these dictionaries. The websites of the provincial Queen's Printer and the Legal Services Society also feature helpful definitions.

A

ab initio
A Latin phrase meaning "from the beginning." A marriage that is unlawful is void ab initio, as if it never happened.
abduction
The taking of a person by force or fraud. In family law, also the taking of a child contrary to a court order or without the permission of a guardian. In certain circumstances, the abduction of a child by a parent may be a criminal offence.
access
Under the Divorce Act, the schedule of a parent's time with their children under an order or agreement. Access usually refers to the schedule of the parent with the least time with the child. See "custody."
account
In law, a lawyer's bill to their client or a statement; one person's recollection of events.
act
Intentionally doing a thing; a law passed by a government, also called "legislation" or a "statute." See "regulations."
action
A court proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called a "lawsuit" or a "case." An action for divorce, for example, is a court proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.
address for service
The address at which a party to a court proceeding agrees to accept delivery of legal documents. An address for service must be a proper street address within British Columbia; additional addresses for service may include postal addresses, fax numbers, and email addresses.
adjournment
The suspension of a hearing or trial, usually when the hearing or trial cannot proceed on the date scheduled or because it cannot complete within the time scheduled, normally until a specific date.
adoption
In family law, the act or process of taking another person's child as one's own. The child becomes the adopting parent's legal child as if the child were the adopting parent's natural child, while the natural parent loses all rights and obligations with respect to the child. See "natural parent."
Adoption Act
A provincial law dealing with the adoption process and the ability to adopt.
adoptive parent
A person who has formally assumed the status of parent to a child who is not their biological offspring. See "adoption" and "natural parent."
adultery
A married person's voluntary sexual intercourse with a person other than their spouse; playing the field; fishing out of season. Proof of adultery is grounds for an immediate divorce, providing that the other spouse has not consented to or forgiven the adulterous act. See "collusion," "condonation," and "divorce, grounds of."
advance
In family law, this usually refers to one party obtaining a part of the property at issue before the property has been finally divided by court order or the parties' agreement.
Advisory Guidelines
Short for the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, an academic paper released by the Department of Justice that describes a variety of mathematical formulas that can be applied to determine how much spousal support should be paid and how long spousal support should be paid for, once a spouse is found to be entitled to receive support. The Advisory Guidelines is not a law although it is pretty useful.
advocate
A lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.
affidavit
A legal document in which a person provides evidence of certain facts and events in writing, as if the evidence was given orally in court. Affidavits must be notarized by a lawyer or notary public who takes the oath or affirmation of the person making the affidavit to confirm the truth of the affidavit. Affidavits are used as evidence, just as if the deponent, the person making the affidavit, had made the statements as a witness. See "deponent" and "witness."
affidavit of service
A legal document required by the rules of court in which a person who has personally served someone describes the circumstances in which the person was served. This may be essential to prove personal service, particularly if the serving party intends to seek a default judgment, as is usually the case in a desk order divorce. See "default judgment" and "personal service."
affirm
To promise that a statement is true. When someone "swears" to tell the truth, they are taking an oath on their faith in a god and their fear of retribution in the afterlife. Affirming is a substitute for taking an oath, and is most often employed where the person making the statement is an atheist or under a religious proscription from making oaths. See "affidavit," "oath," "perjury" and "witness."
age of majority
The age at which a child becomes a legal adult with the full capacity to act on their own, including the capacity to sue and be sued. In British Columbia, the age of majority is 19. The age of majority has nothing to do with being entitled to vote or buy alcohol, although federal and provincial laws sometimes link those privileges with the age at which one attains majority. See "disability" and "infant."
agent
In law, someone acting on behalf of someone else, with that person's express permission and normally at their express direction.
alias
A name by which people know you other than your legal name, such as Vanilla Ice if your legal name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle. Aliases are not illegal in British Columbia.
alienating
In family law, the actions or statements of one parent that tend to sever, damage, or harm a child's relationship with or affections for the other parent, either intentionally or unintentionally.
allegation
A claim that a certain set of facts is true, such as "on Monday, I had soup for lunch" or "Bob drives a blue Camaro." Also called an "allegation of fact" or a "statement of fact."
alternative
In law, a phrase used to indicate secondary relief or a secondary ground of relief in a claim or application, usually presented as an option to the primary relief or primary ground of relief. For example, "I'd like to have have all of the house but, in the alternative, I'll take half." See “motion," “pleadings," and “relief."
alternative dispute resolution
A phrase referring to a family of processes intended to resolve disputes outside of the court system, including arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and collaborative settlement processes. In family law, the purpose of alternative dispute resolution is to offer a less adversarial and less expensive way to resolve a dispute than having to go to court and have a judge resolve things.
amend
To change or alter a pleading or document that has already been filed in court or given to the other party. The resulting document is a separate document from the original and is called, for example, the "amended Notice of Family Claim" or the "amended separation agreement."
amicus curiae
A Latin phrase meaning "friend of the court." Usually refers to a lawyer who does not act for any of the parties and assists the court by bringing relevant information to the attention of the judge.
annulment
A declaration by a judge that a marriage is invalid. The effect of such a declaration is to cancel the marriage from the moment it took place, as if the marriage never occurred. See "ab initio," "declaration" and "marriage, validity of."
answer
In law, response to an allegation of fact or to a claim. Usually refers to documents which reply to the allegations or claims made by the other party, such as a "Response to Family Claim" or a "Reply."
appeal
An application to a higher court for a review of the correctness of a decision of a lower court. A decision of a judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia can be appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. A decision of a judge of the Supreme Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.
appellant
The party who brings an appeal of a lower court's decision. See also "appeal" and "respondent."
applicant
A party who brings an application to the court for a specific order or remedy. Usually refers to the party making an interim application, but in the Provincial Court can mean the person who starts a court proceeding. See also "court proceeding," "application respondent" and "interim application."
application
A request to the court that it make a specific order, usually on an interim or temporary basis, also called a "chambers application" or a "motion." See also "interim application" and "relief."
Application to Obtain an Order
A legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to start a court proceeding, which sets out the relief sought by the applicant against the person named as respondent. See "action," "applicant," "pleadings," "relief," and "respondent."
application respondent
A party against whom an interim application has been brought. See also "applicant" and "interim application."
Application Response
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to reply to a Notice of Application, which sets out the relief agreed to and opposed by the application respondent and the facts in support of that position. See "interim application."
apportion
In family law, to divide equally, usually referring to the division of family property between spouses. See also "reapportion."
appraisal
A professional estimate of the worth of something, such as a company, a property, an investment, a book of business, a loan or a debt. In family law, this is sometimes required for the court to determine the value of property such as an art collection or a house.
apprehend
In law, to take or to seize. In family law, this term usually refers to the taking of a child out of the care of their parents by the police or child welfare authorities.
arbitration
A dispute resolution process in which an arbitrator hears the evidence and arguments presented by the parties to a legal dispute and makes an award which resolves the dispute and is binding on the parties. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law arbitrator."
argument
In law, an attempt to persuade by logical reasoning. Usually refers to oral or written argument presented to a judge following the presentation of evidence, or to a written summary of argument.
arrears
Child support or spousal support that is owing because of an order or agreement but is unpaid.
assent
Agreement, approval.
assess
To determine the value or amount of something. A lawyer's bill may be assessed by a registrar to determine the actual amount the client should pay. See "appraisal."
assign
In law, to transfer an interest or right in something to someone else. People who go on welfare, for example, are required to assign their rights to apply for child support and spousal support to the provincial government.
attest
To swear or affirm something to be true, usually in the context of giving oral evidence or providing affidavit evidence.
award
A mandatory direction of an arbitrator, binding and enforceable upon the parties to an arbitration proceeding, made following the hearing of the arbitration trial proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to challenge or appeal the award in court. See "appeal," "arbitration" and "family law arbitrator."

B

bad faith
Intentionally misleading someone else, whether by doing or not doing something; acting in a manner contrary to one's actual intention; failing to act honestly and openly. Also known by the Latin phrase male fides. See bona fides.
bar
In law, the physical railing separating the public gallery in a courtroom from the area where the judge and lawyers sit; lawyers as a group; where lawyers go after work.
barrister and solicitor
A lawyer; a person licensed to practise law in a particular jurisdiction. In England, "barristers" do trial work and "solicitors" draft legal documents. In Canada, lawyers are both barristers and solicitors.
bastard
A child of unmarried parents; an illegitimate child. Bastards used to be at a profound legal disadvantage; however, the law has changed so that such children are treated no differently than children born of a marriage. The appearance of this definition below that of "barrister and solicitor" is purely coincidental.
bench
In law, the court; judges as a group; the place where a judge sits in a courtroom.
beneficiary
A person for whom a trustee holds a trust; the recipient or intended recipient of property given in a will. See "heir," and "trust."
bigamy
The act of going through a form of marriage ceremony with one person while being already married to someone else, or with a person who is already married to someone else. This is a criminal offence in Canada, under s. 290 of the Criminal Code, although one that is rarely, if ever, enforced. Bigamous marriages, marriages subsequent to the first, are void ab initio. See "ab initio," "marriage, validity of" and "polygamy."
bill
In law, a piece of draft legislation presented to the legislature for its approval; a lawyer's statement of account for services rendered to their client. See "account," "act," and "lawyer's fees."
bill of costs
In British Columbia, an account prepared by the party who is awarded their costs of an action or application and is presented to the other party for payment. A bill of costs is prepared according to a formula set out in the Supreme Court Family Rules.
binding
In law, a requirement or obligation to honour and abide by something, such as a contract or order of the court. A judge's order is "binding" in the sense that it must be obeyed or a certain punishment will be imposed. Also refers to the principle that a higher court's decision on a point of law must be adopted by a lower court. See "contempt of court" and "precedent."
bona fide
A Latin phrase meaning "in good faith." Doing something honestly and openly, without intending to mislead, deceive, or harm someone else. See "bad faith."
breach of contract
Acting or not acting in a manner that is contrary to the terms of a contract. In family law, the breach of one party usually gives rise to a cause of action for the other party, allowing that party to sue for breach of contract, but the breach is unlikely to allow that party to treat the agreement as if it were cancelled or had been voided.
brief
In law, a written argument; a memorandum of law. A brief is usually presented to a judge as a summary of an argument or the law on a particular issue. Curiously, briefs are rarely brief.
BTW
A law student's mnemonic device, short for "Bigamy = Two Wives."
burden of proof
The obligation of a party to prove their case; the onus of proof. The burden of proof usually lies on the party who makes a claim, although in certain circumstances this burden is reversed, usually by operation of statute. In civil litigation, a party must prove their case on the balance of probabilities. See "onus."
business days
A method of calculating time under which the days for a legal deadline are determined based on when the court is open for business, excluding weekends and holidays. See "calendar days" and "clear days."

C

calendar days
A method of calculating time under which the days for a legal deadline are counted as they appear in the calendar, including weekends and holidays. See "business days" and "clear days."
case
In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."
case at bar
The case presently before the court; the case being argued.
case law
The law as is established and developed by the decisions made in each court proceeding. See "common law."
cause
In law, a lawsuit, an action, or a cause of action; the wrongful act of another which gives rise to a claim for relief. See "action," "cause of action."
cause of action
The behaviour of a person that gives rise to a claim for relief. For example, a spouse's adultery gives rise to the other spouse's right to claim a divorce. The adulterous act is the cause of action for the divorce claim.
certificate of costs
A document endorsed by a master or registrar stating the amount owed as "costs" by one party to the other after a trial, usually issued following a hearing to settle the amount of the costs justly owed. A certificate of costs is a judgment of the Supreme Court and enforced as like a judgment debt.
certificate of fees
A document endorsed by a master or registrar stating the amount a client owes to their lawyer, issued following a hearing to "assess" or "tax" a lawyer's bill and determine what portion of the lawyer's bill was reasonable and is properly owed to or refundable by that lawyer. See "account."
Certificate of Pending Litigation
A document filed in the office of the Land Title and Survey Authority against the title of real property, stating that the property is the subject of a court proceeding and that ownership of the property may change as a result; formerly called a lis pendens. In family law, a CPL is used to protect the interest of a party in a piece of property by notifying potential purchasers or mortgagees about the court proceeding. See "clear title," "encumbrance," and "real property."
Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Also known as the Charter, the part of the Constitution Act, 1982 that sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms enjoyed by all Canadians, including the freedoms of religion and expression and the rights to life and liberty. Neither the federal nor the provincial governments can pass laws or act in ways contrary to the Charter.
chattel
Personal property; an item of property other than real estate. See "real property."
child
A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."
child support
Money paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as a contribution toward the cost of a child's living and other expenses.
Child Support Guidelines
A regulation to the federal Divorce Act, adopted by every province and territory except Quebec, that sets the amount of child support a parent or guardian must pay, usually based on the person's income and the number of children involved.
circumstantial evidence
Evidence that doesn't prove a fact but allows a court to logically infer a fact; indirect proof of a fact. For example, a fixed amount of money deposited every two weeks into someone's bank account may allow the court to infer that the person has a job even though there is no direct evidence of that person's employment.
civil action
A court proceeding other than a criminal court proceeding. All family law court proceedings are civil actions.
Civil Marriage Act
Federal legislation that expands the common law definition of spouse to include persons of the same gender, thereby allowing persons of the same sex to marry one another.
claim
The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.
claimant
The person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."
clear days
A method of calculating time under which the days for a legal deadline are counted by excluding the first day and the last day in the period. For example, a court order obtained on Monday that says that someone can apply to vary the order on "two clear days' notice" means that the soonest the person could apply is Thursday. See "business days" and "calendar days."
clear title
Ownership of property without any debt, liens, or claims being registered against the property. For example, owning a piece of land without a mortgage or a CPL on the property, or owning a car without a car loan. See "Certificate of Pending Litigation."
coercion
The use of force or intimidation, whether emotional or physical, to compel another person to do something; interference with another person's freedom of choice to obtain an outcome, action or behaviour.
cohabitation
Living with another person, shacking up, playing house. Cohabitation in a "marriage-like relationship" is necessary to qualify as "spouse" under the Family Law Act. See "marriage-like relationship" and "spouse."
cohabitation agreement
An agreement signed by people who are or have begun to live together in a marriage-like relationship that is intended to govern their rights and obligations in the event of the breakdown of their relationship and, sometimes, their rights and obligations during their relationship. See "family law agreement."
collaborative settlement processes
A family of dispute resolution processes in which the parties to a legal dispute and their lawyers agree that they will make every effort to resolve the dispute through cooperative, transparent negotiations, with the assistance of counsellors and neutral experts in financial issues and children's issues as necessary, without going to court. See "alternative dispute resolution."
collusion
An agreement to do something with one or more other people towards an illegal or harmful goal. In family law, the court must satisfy itself that there has been no collusion between the parties as to the ground of divorce before a divorce order will be made.
common law
The legal principle under which courts are bound to follow the principles established by previous courts in similar cases dealing with similar facts; the system of justice used in non-criminal cases in all provinces and territories except Quebec.
common-law marriage
A form of marriage without government or church licence, and often without ceremony, in which a couple acquired certain rights and obligations toward each other under the common law, banned as a result of the 1753 English Marriage Act. Common-law marriages have never been lawful in British Columbia. See "unmarried spouse."
common-law spouse
A popular misconception under which people are believed to be married simply by living together; a popular misnomer describing the legal relationship between long-term cohabitants. Common-law marriages have never been lawful in British Columbia. See "common-law marriage," "married spouse" and "unmarried spouse."
competent
In law, having the capacity, ability or authorization to do a thing. A person who is competent to give evidence is sane and able to understand the issues and results of their evidence. A court that is competent has the authority to deal with the issues in a case and authority over the parties to that case.
conclusion of fact
A judge's decisions as to what the facts of a case are, based on the evidence they have heard and their evaluation of the credibility of the witnesses giving the evidence. See "conclusion of law," "evidence," "question of fact," and "witness."
conclusion of law
A judge's decision as to how the law, including any relevant legislation or principles of the common law, should be applied to the facts of a particular case. See "common law," "conclusion of fact," "question of law," and "legislation."
concur
To agree.
concurrent
Happening or existing at the same time. Two courts with concurrent jurisdiction each have the jurisdiction to hear the same case and deal with the same legal issues.
condonation
Forgiving the wrongful or harmful act of another. In family law, condonation usually refers to forgiving an act of adultery or cruelty and the continuation of the parties' relationship as it had been before, often inadvertently ending the innocent spouse's ability to apply for a divorce based on the adultery or cruelty. See "adultery," "cruelty, mental or physical," and "divorce, grounds of."
conjugal rights
A somewhat outdated idea involving each spouse’s entitlement to the benefits of the different aspects of married life from the other, including the comforts of living together, eating at the same table, sympathy, mutual confidence, sex and so forth.
connivance
Intentionally causing or permitting a wrongful act to happen to obtain a goal. In family law, a married spouse conspiring towards the adultery of the other spouse for the purpose of claiming adultery as a ground of divorce. A divorce will not be granted where connivance as to the ground of divorce relied on is found. See "adultery," "collusion," "condonation," and "divorce, grounds of."
consanguinity
Being related to another person by blood. For a marriage to be valid, the parties must not be within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or adoption. See "marriage," "Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act" and "marriage, validity of."
consent
Agreement; the giving of permission for a thing to happen or not happen.
consent order
An order resolving all or part of a court proceeding, on an interim or final basis, that the parties agree the court should make.
consortium
The marital relationship between spouses, specifically the right of each spouse to the company and aid of the other. See "conjugal rights."
conspiracy
The agreement of two or more people to perform an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. A conspirator is a party to a conspiracy. See "lawful."
constitution
In law, the rules that set out the political and legal organization of a state. The power and authority of the governments, the legislative bodies and the courts, as well as their limits, stem from the constitution. In Canada, there are two primary constitutional documents, the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Constitution Act, 1982. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Constitution Act, 1982.
construction
In law, the interpretation of something, like a document or a set of circumstances, so as to give it meaning. For example, if a separation agreement stated that one guardian "will have the children on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday" but didn’t say anything about the other guardian, the agreement would be constructed to mean that the other guardian would have the children on the days that weren't mentioned.
contact
A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."
constructive trust
In family law, the finding by a court that a person holds a portion of their assets for the benefit of the other party without an express agreement to that effect between the parties. See "resulting trust" and "trust."
contempt of court
Doing something or failing to do something that impairs the administration of justice or respect for the court’s authority, such as bribing a witness, disobeying a court order, or misleading the court. Contempt of court can be a civil offence as well as a criminal offence.
contingency fees
An arrangement whereby a lawyer is paid by taking a percentage of the money awarded to their client by the court or a settlement. Contingency fee agreements are not allowed in family matters, although sometimes a lawyer will agree to be paid from the assets held by a party following the final resolution of an action, such as the proceeds of the sale of a family asset. See "account," "lawyer's fees" and "retainer."
continuance
The continued hearing of an application or trial following a partial hearing at an earlier date. See "adjournment."
contract
An agreement between two or more people, giving them obligations towards each other that can be enforced in court. A valid contract must be offered by one person and accepted by the other, and some form of payment or other thing of value must generally be exchanged between the parties to the contract.
contract law
The branch of law dealing with the interpretation and enforcement of contracts. The principles of contract law are usually but not always applicable to family law agreements.
corollary relief
In court proceeding for divorce, this term refers to all relief claimed apart from the divorce order itself. For example, in a court proceeding for divorce and custody, the claim for custody is corollary relief. See "action" and "relief."
corporal punishment
In family law, the physical punishment of a child by a parent, guardian, or other authorized person. Corporal punishment is permitted under the Criminal Code, but only to a limited extent and only by certain persons, including parents and teachers.
costs
A calculation of the allowable legal expenses of a party to a court proceeding, as determined by the Supreme Court Family Rules. The party who is most successful in a court proceeding is usually awarded their "costs" of the proceeding. See "account, "bill of costs," "certificate of costs," and "lawyer's fees."
counsel
A lawyer; the advice given by a lawyer to their client.
Counterclaim
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which a respondent sets out a claim for a specific remedy or relief against a claimant. See "Notice of Family Claim" and "Response to Family Claim."
Court of Appeal
The highest level of court in this province, having the jurisdiction to review decisions of the Supreme Court, all provincial lower courts and certain tribunals. See "appeal."
court proceeding
A legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit" or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.
court registry
A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed.
covenant
A promise to do or not do a particular thing. See "contract," "family law agreements" and "separation agreements."
CPL
The short form for "Certificate of Pending Legislation." A CPL is a document filed in the office of the Land Title and Survey Authority against the title of real property stating that the property is the subject of a court proceeding and that ownership of the property may change as a result, formerly called a lis pendens. In family law, a CPL is used to protect the interest of a party in a piece of property by notifying potential purchasers or mortgagees about the court proceeding. See "clear title," "encumbrance," and "real property."
cross-examination
The portion of a trial where a party asks questions of a witness presented by the other party in order to challenge the witness’s recollection and truthfulness. The questions asked of the witness must be relevant to the issues and may be leading, that is, the questions may suggest their answers, such as "You didn't get home until 2:00am, did you?" See "examination-in-chief," "evidence," and "leading question."
Crown
In law, the federal and provincial governments and their departments and agencies. Lawyers employed by the federal and provincial governments to prosecute criminal offences.
cruelty
In family law, the physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse of one married spouse by the other. Proof of cruelty is grounds for an immediate divorce, providing that the other spouse has not forgiven the adulterous act. See "condonation" and "divorce, grounds of"
custody
In family law, an antiquated term used by the Divorce Act to describe the right to possess a child and make parenting decisions concerning the child's health, welfare and upbringing. See "access."

D

damages
An award of money payable by one party to a court proceeding to another, usually as compensation for loss or harm suffered as a result of the other party’s actions or omissions. In family law, damages are usually awarded to one party in compensation for breach of contract or spousal abuse. See "breach of contract" and "tort."
debt
A sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed.
decision
In law, a judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application; a judgment; the judge's reasons. A judge's written or oral decision will include the judge's conclusions about the relief or remedies claimed as well as their findings of fact and conclusions of law. A written decision is called the judge’s "reasons for judgment." See "common law," "conclusions of law," and "findings of fact."
declaration
In law, a pronouncement of the court about a fact or a state of affairs, such as a declaration that a marriage is void or that a person is the guardian of a child. Not to be confused with an order, which is a mandatory direction of the court requiring a party to do or not do something. See "order."
deem
To make an assumption that one thing follows logically from another; a presumption of a fact based on other facts. Sometimes, a presumption of a fact required by law, such as the presumption that a respondent who files a Response to Family Claim has been served with the Notice of Family Claim.
de facto
A Latin phrase meaning "in fact."
default
In law, failing to do something which is either optional or mandatory, such as failing to respond to an application or to a claim within the time limits set out in the rules of court. See "default judgment. "
default judgment
A judgment obtained by a claimant following the respondent's failure to reply to the claimant's claim within the proper time from service. In the Supreme Court, a respondent who has been properly served with a Notice of Family Claim has 30 days to file a Response to Family Claim. Once those 30 days have elapsed without the response being served on the claimant, the claimant may apply to the court for a judgment in default. This is the basis for divorce orders made under the desk order divorce process. See "desk order divorce" and "Response to Family Claim."
defence
A reply, a rebuttal, an answer to a court proceeding or an application; a statement as to why a particular claim or application should not succeed.
de jure
A Latin phrase meaning "by law." By operation of law; as a matter of law; by legal right.
delivery
Sending legal documents to a party at that party's "address for service," usually by mail, fax or email, called "ordinary service" in proceedings before the Supreme Court. Certain documents, like a Notice of Family Claim, must be served on the other party by personal service. Most other documents may be served by ordinary service. See also "address for service" and "personal service."
demand letter
A letter describing a legal claim sent to the person against whom the claim might be made, offering to settle the claim without the necessity of legal action on terms set out in the letter. Demand letters are usually issued before court proceedings have commenced in order to settle a potential claim without the need for litigation.
de minimus non curat lex
A Latin maxim meaning "the law does not concern itself with trifles," also known by its short form, de minimus. This maxim stands for the idea that some claims or arguments, even though legally correct or valid, are too small or trivial to be dealt with by the court.
denial
In law, defending a claim by denying the truth of a fact supporting the claim; a rejection of the truth of facts alleged.
de novo
A Latin phrase meaning "anew." Renewed; from the beginning. An application or trial heard de novo is heard for a second time without the court considering or being bound by the result of or decisions made during the first hearing.
dependant
In law, a person who relies on someone else for their support and the necessities of life. See "child," "child support" and "spousal support."
deponent
A person giving information under affirmation or oath; a witness. Refers to both a person giving testimony at a trial and a person making an affidavit. See "affidavit," "evidence," "testimony" and "witness."
desertion
In family law, the abandonment of one married spouse by the other. This is an old ground of divorce that has been replaced in the modern Divorce Act with simple separation for a period of at least one year. See "divorce, grounds of" and "separation."
desk order divorce
A process in which a divorce order, with or without other corollary relief, is obtained following the respondent's failure to file a Response to Family Claim. A desk order divorce does not require a hearing in court and is the cheapest way to obtain a divorce order. See "corollary relief" and "divorce."
disability
In law, a legal incapacity to do certain things, like enter into a contract or start a court proceeding. Legal disabilities include insanity and being under the age of majority. See "age of majority."
disbar
To strip a lawyer of their right to practice law, usually after a formal inquiry by the Law Society.
disclosure
A step in a court proceeding in which each party advises the other of the documents in their possession which relate to the issues in the court proceeding and produces copies of any requested documents before trial. This process is regulated by the rules of court, which put each party under an ongoing obligation to continue to advise the other of new documents coming into their possession or control. The purpose of this step is to encourage the settlement of court proceedings and to prevent a party from springing new evidence on the other party at trial.
discontinuance
The termination of a claim by the claimant or the termination of a counterclaim by a respondent. The discontinuance of a claim indicates the party's intention not to proceed with their claim. See "action" and "Counterclaim."
discovery
A step in a court proceeding in which a party may demand that the other party produce specific documents and submit to a cross-examination on oath or affirmation outside of court before trial. This process is regulated by the rules of court. The purpose of this step is to encourage the settlement of court proceedings and to make sure that each party knows what the other party's case will be trial. See "examination for discovery."
dismiss
In law, a judge’s decision not to grant a claim or to reject a court proceeding with or without trial. An application that is dismissed has been rejected by the judge. See "application."
dispute resolution
The processes used to conclusively resolve legal disputes including negotiation, collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration and litigation.
dissent
Disagreement; the decision of a judge of the Court of Appeal who disagrees with the decision reached by the majority of the judges hearing the same appeal. See "appeal" and "Court of Appeal."
divorce
The legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage," and "marriage, validity of."
Divorce Act
Federal legislation that deals with divorce, custody and access, child support, spousal support and the recognition of divorce orders made outside of Canada.
divorce, grounds of
The Divorce Act provides one ground upon which the court may make a divorce order, marriage breakdown. Marriage breakdown may be established on proof of the spouses' separation for at least one year, a spouse's adultery, or a spouse's cruelty toward the other spouse. See "adultery," "cruelty," "divorce," and "separation."
domestic contract
In family law, an agreement between two or more persons about legal issues that have arisen or made arise, dealing with their respective rights and obligations to one another, that the parties expect will be binding on them and be enforceable in court. Typical domestic contracts include marriage agreements, cohabitation agreements and separation agreements
domicile
The place where one has one’s permanent home, where one lives most of the time; sometimes the place where one intends to have a permanent home. A party's domicile may have an impact on the jurisdiction of the court to hear a court proceeding, deal with certain claims made in a court proceeding and on the law that applied to divide property and debt. See "jurisdiction" and "residence."
donee
A person who receives a gift or bequest.
donor
A person gives something as a gift or as a bequest, freely and without expectation of payment in return.
dower
The entitlement of a wife to a portion of her husband’s estate on his death under the common law. This right is extinguished in British Columbia and is replaced by the provisions of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act that give a surviving spouse certain rights to share in the estate of the deceased spouse.
dowry
In some legal systems, the real property and personal property brought into a marriage by the wife; the property given to a wife by her husband in return for her marriage to him. There is no legal entitlement to dowry in Canada, and agreements for dowry will not normally be enforceable. See "chattels" and "real property."
draft
A preliminary version of a document; an order prepared following judgment submitted to the court for its approval; to prepare, or draw, a legal document.
duress
Forcing someone to do something though psychological or emotional pressure; a defence to the enforcement of a contract. If, for example, a separation agreement was entered into under duress, that may be a ground to dispute or set aside that agreement.
Durex
A brand of condom. See "child support."
duty
In law, a legal obligation to do or not do something, whether under the common law or pursuant to legislation.
duty counsel
A lawyer paid by legal aid or the government who provides limited legal services to people on the day that they are in court.

E

election
In law, the making of a choice between two or more options.
enactment
A government action or declaration intended to have a legal effect, usually in the form of legislation or regulation. See "act" and "regulations."
encumbrance
A legal right, usually to payment of a debt, that is secured by registration of the right on the title of property. For example, a mortgage is secured against the title of real property and is registered as an encumbrance on title. See "Certificate of Pending Litigation," "clear title," and "real property."
endorse
In law, to sign a document or otherwise formally signal one's approval or acceptance of a document, proposal, contract or draft order.
endowment
In family law, the giving of dower to a wife or dowry by a wife. See "dower" and "dowry."
enjoin
To prohibit or restrain someone from doing something, normally by order of the court. See "restraining order."
enticement
In family law, the act of intentionally causing a wife to leave her husband or intentionally interfering with a married couple's consortium, formerly a common law cause of action. The Family Law Act expressly forbids legal actions based on enticement, which is too bad, really. See "cause of action," "conjugal rights," and "consortium."
ergo
A Latin word meaning "therefore."
error of fact
A ground of appeal based on a claim that, unknown to the trial judge, a fact exists, or a fact supposed to exist does not, making the judge's decision void or voidable. See "appeal."
error of law
A ground of appeal based on a claim that the trial judge did not apply the law correctly in reaching their decision. This is the most common ground of appeal. See "appeal" and "error of fact."
estate
In law, all of the personal property and real property that a person owns or in which they have an interest, usually in connection with the prospect or event of the person's death.
et al.
A Latin phrase meaning "and others," short for et alia ― because "alia" is just such a pain to write out. Formerly used in a style of cause to indicate that there are more parties to a legal action than are listed, and now replaced with the English phrase. See "style of cause."
evidence
Facts or proof of facts presented to a judge at a hearing or trial. Evidence can be given through the oral testimony of witnesses, in writing as business records and other documents, or in the form of physical objects. Evidence must be admissible according to the rules of court and the rules of evidence. See "circumstantial evidence," "hearsay," and "testimony."
evidentiary burden
The obligation of a party to prove their case, the onus of proof. The burden of proof usually lies on the party who makes a claim, although in certain circumstances this burden is reversed, usually by operation of statute. In civil litigation, a party must prove their case on the balance of probabilities.
examination-in-chief
The portion of a trial where a party asks questions of their own witnesses to elicit evidence of certain facts. The questions asked of the witness cannot be leading, that is, the answer cannot be suggested in the question. For example, "What colour is your car?" rather than "Your car is blue?" See "cross-examination" and "evidence."
examination for discovery
The cross-examination of a party under oath or affirmation about the matters at issue in a court proceeding conducted prior to trial. An examination for discovery is held outside court, with no one in attendance except for the parties, the parties' lawyers and a court reporter. The court reporter produces a transcript of the examination, which may, in certain circumstances, be used at trial. See "discovery."
excluded property
A term under the Family Law Act referring to property acquired by a spouse prior to the commencement of the spouses' relationship and certain property acquired by a spouse during the relationship, including gifts, inheritances, court awards and insurance proceedings. A spouse is presumed to be entitled to keep their excluded property without having to share it with the other spouse. See "family property," "gift," and "inheritance."
execute
In contract law, to complete or accomplish; to complete the legal formalities necessary to give a document effect. One "executes" a separation agreement, for example, by signing it in the presence of a witness.
executor
The person responsible for carrying out the instructions in a will and wrapping up a deceased person's estate and debts. The lovely feminine form of the word is "executrix," though the masculine form is commonly applied to executrices and executors both. See "estate," "testator," and "will."
ex parte
A Latin phrase meaning "from one party." Refers to an application that is brought before the court without notice being given to the other party. Such applications are only heard in urgent situations, for example, where a guardian has threatened to flee with the children. See "application."
expert evidence
Opinion evidence given by an expert at trial, in an affidavit or in a report. Opinion evidence is a statement about what a witness thinks or believes, rather than something personally known as a fact, and is generally not admissible at trial except when the opinion is provided by an expert. A person presented as an expert witness must be approved by the court as a qualified expert in their field. In family law, experts typically called to give evidence include accountants, business valuators, doctors, and psychologists. See "evidence" and "witness."

F

family debt
A term under the Family Law Act referring to debt owed by either or both spouses that accumulated during the spouses' relationship, as well as after separation if used to maintain family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally liable for family debt.
family home
In family law, the dwelling occupied by a family as their primary residence. See "family property" and "real property."
Family Law Act
Provincial legislation that deals with parentage, guardianship, parental responsibilities and parenting time, contact, child support, spousal support and the division of property and debt.
Family Law Act Regulation
A provincial regulation that prescribes the training necessary to work as a family law mediator, a family law arbitrator and a parenting coordinator, and adapts the federal Child Support Guidelines for the purpose of the Family Law Act. See "Child Support Guidelines" and "Family Law Act ."
family law agreement
An agreement between two or more persons about family law issues that have arisen or made arise, dealing with their respective rights and obligations to one another, which the parties expect will be binding on them and be enforceable in court. Typical family law agreements include marriage agreements, cohabitation agreements and separation agreements.
family law arbitrator
A lawyer or another person with special training in the arbitration of family law disputes who meets the training and experience requirements set out in the provincial Family Law Act Regulation. See "arbitration."
family law mediator
A lawyer or another person with special training in the mediation of family law disputes who meets the training and experience requirements set out in the provincial Family Law Act Regulation. See "mediation."
family property
A term under the Family Law Act referring to property acquired by either or both spouses during their relationship, as well as after separation if bought with family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally entitled to share in family property. See "excluded property."
Family Relations Act
Former provincial legislation that dealt with custody, guardianship, access, child support, spousal support and, for married spouses, the division of family assets. Now wholly repealed except for certain lingering effects involving the division of property. See "Family Law Act."
final judgment
A judge's decision that finally determines some or all of the claims in a court proceeding, following which there is no other recourse open to a dissatisfied party except an appeal. See "decision."
Financial Statement
A legal document required by the rules of court in which a party to a court proceeding involving child support, spousal support, the division of property or the division of debt must describe their income, expenses, assets and liabilities under oath or affirmation. See "affirm," "oath," and "perjury."
finding
A conclusion made by a judge which decides a point of law or a disputed fact.
finding of fact
A judge’s conclusion about the facts in a court proceeding, made after hearing all the evidence. See "decision" and "question of fact."
finding of law
A judge’s conclusion about the law to be applied to the facts in a court proceeding, or how the law should be applied to the facts in a proceeding, made after hearing the parties' arguments on the applicable law. See "decision" and "question of law."
fornication
Sex between two unmarried people. No longer a criminal offence in Canada, thankfully, although it remains an offence in certain American states. See "adultery."
forum
In law, a particular court or level of court, sometimes used in reference to the court's jurisdiction over a particular issue.
foster care
A home where a child lives other than with their natural or adoptive parents. Such a situation usually arises when the child welfare authorities have apprehended a child or when a child's parents voluntarily give the child up. See "apprehension."
foster parent
An adult charged with the care of a child who is not their own natural or adoptive child, usually in the position of a guardian to the child, who receives money in exchange for caring for the child. See "apprehension" and "guardian."
frivolous and vexatious
A term under the provincial Supreme Court Act describing court proceedings or applications brought by a litigant that are clearly unsupported by the evidence or the law. Such behaviour is considered to be a nuisance to other parties to those proceedings and a waste of the court’s time, and may result in an order preventing the litigant from taking further legal steps without permission from the court. See "action" and "litigant."
frustration
In contract law, the inability to complete or fulfill a contract, whether intentional or unintentional; the intentional interference with a person's rights under a contract or court order. In family law, the motivation for an application for annulment based on non-consummation of the marriage. A contract that cannot be completed or fulfilled is said to be "frustrated."

G

gainful employment
Steady work for pay. In family law, a dependent spouse usually has a duty to find gainful employment and become self-sufficient following the breakdown of a relationship. Under certain circumstances, a failure to find gainful employment, or to take reasonable steps toward finding gainful employment, may justify the termination of spousal support. See "dependent" and "spousal support."
gift
A voluntary transfer of property from one person to another, without expectation of payment or reward. Gifts to one spouse do not usually qualify as family property, and are excluded from the pool of property to be divided. See "donee," "donor," "excluded property," and "family property."
good faith
Acting in an honest, truthful, open and fair manner, without the intent to deceive or defraud. Also known by the Latin phrase bona fide. See "bad faith."
guardian
A person charged with the legal care of someone under a legal disability. A term under the Family Law Act referring to a person, including a parent, who is responsible for the care and upbringing of a child through the exercise of parental responsibilities. See "disability," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time."
guardian ad litem
A Latin phrase meaning a guardian "for the litigation." A person conducting a court proceeding on behalf of someone under a legal disability, as if they were that person. Also called a "litigation guardian." See "disability."
Guidelines
Short for the Child Support Guidelines, a regulation to the federal Divorce Act, adopted by each province and territory except Quebec, that sets the amount of child support a parent or guardian must pay based on the person's income and the number of children involved.

H

Hague Conventions
Legal agreements binding between signatory nations at the Hague. While there are a number of these agreements, the most important for family law matters is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which deals with the return of children from foreign countries to which they have been wrongly removed by a parent or guardian.
hearing
In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision" and "evidence."
hearsay
Evidence of which a witness has no direct, personal knowledge. For example, evidence to the effect that “Pierre told me that Mitsou trashed the car” or "Mitsou told me she trashed the car" are both hearsay. Hearsay evidence is not usually admissible. There are a number of exceptions to the general rule against hearsay, the most important of which allows hearsay evidence in interim applications as long as the source of the hearsay information is identified. See "affidavit," "application," "evidence," and "witness."
heirs
In wills and estates law, the people intended or expected to receive property or other benefits under a will; a person's direct lineal descendants. See "executor" and "will."

I

indemnify
To make good financial loss or harm suffered by another; to repay.
indigent
Being flat broke. Persons with limited or no income used to apply to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal for indigent status, which exempts them from paying the usual court fees for all or a part of a court proceeding. The terms indigent or impoverished are no longer used. The Rules for both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal now refer to applications that fees are waived or not payable.
infant
A person not yet of the age of majority, a minor, a child. See "age of majority," "child," and "disability."
Infants Act
Provincial legislation that governs the legal capacity of minors and contracts involving minors. See "age of majority," "child," and "disability."
inheritance
Real property or personal property received as a result of the provisions of a will or the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. Inheritances do not usually qualify as family property subject to division between spouses. See "family property," "real property" and "will."
injunction
A court order that someone not do or cease doing a thing; a restraining order. In family law, injunctions are often sought, for example, to stop someone from removing the children from a place, from disposing of assets or from harassing someone. See "application" and "ex parte."
in loco parentis
A Latin phrase meaning "in the place of a parent." Acting as a parent in the place of the child’s natural parent or intending to stand in the place of that parent. A married spouse found to be in loco parentis to a child may be responsible to pay child support for that child under the Divorce Act. See "natural parent" and "stepparent."
in personam
A Latin phrase meaning "against the person." Refers to a right or an order made against a person rather than in reference to a thing.
in rem
A Latin phrase meaning "against the thing." Refers to a right or an order made in reference to objects or property rather than against a person.
inspection of documents
The right of a party to a court proceeding to look at and copy documents held by the other party that relate to any matters at issue in the proceeding; part of the discovery and production process. See "disclosure" and "discovery."
instructions
In law, the directions given by a client to their lawyer about the conduct of their affairs or of a court proceeding.
instrument
In law, a legal document that sets out certain rights and obligations, or records certain facts or entitlements to certain benefits and obligations, such as a contract, a waiver and a will. See "family law agreements" and "will."
inter alia
A Latin phrase meaning "among other things." For example, "The Brady Bunch children included, inter alia, Cindy, Jan and Bobby."
interim application
An application, also called in "interlocutory application," made after the start of a court proceeding but before its conclusion, usually for temporary relief pending the final resolution of the proceeding at trial or by settlement. In family law, interim applications are useful to determine issues like where the children will live, who will pay child support and whether spousal support should be paid on a rough and ready basis. See "application" and "interim order."
interim order
Any order made prior to the final resolution of a court proceeding by trial or by settlement; a temporary, rather than permanent or final order. See "application" and "interim application."
interlocutory
Literally, “between speakings;” refers to interim applications brought after the start of a court proceeding but before its conclusion. See "interim application" and "interim order."
interrogatories
Written questions given by one party to a court proceeding to the other that must be answered on the party's affirmation or oath in affidavit form; part of the discovery process. See "discovery."
intestate
Dying without a will. In such circumstances, the distribution of the dead person’s estate is governed by the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. See also "estate," "inheritance" and "will."
in the alternative
A phrase used to indicate secondary relief or a secondary ground of relief in a claim or application, usually presented as an option to the primary relief or primary ground of relief. See "alternative," "motion," "pleadings" and "relief."
in trust
A phrase describing how property is held by one person for the benefit of another person who is ultimately entitled to the use or proceeds of sale of that property. Money held in trust is held in a lawyer's bank account on the lawyer’s promise not to use that money except as may be agreed.
in utero
A Latin phrase meaning "in the womb." Used in reference to fetuses.

J

JD
To practise law in British Columbia one requires a law degree in the form of either a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.) or a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.). “LL.M." stands for a Master of Laws degree and “LL.D." for a Doctor of Laws. A J.D. is the same thing as a LL.B. but sounds way more impressive.
joint account
A bank account owned by more than one person, normally with an equal entitlement to deposit or withdraw, with or without the consent of the other account holders.
joint custody
A term used by the Divorce Act when both spouses have custody of a child, giving both the right to make parenting decisions concerning the child's health, welfare and upbringing but not necessarily requiring or implying that the spouses have equal or near-equal amounts of time with the child. See “access" and "custody."
joint tenancy
A form of property co-ownership in which each joint tenant has a right of ownership of the whole property that is indistinct from the ownership rights of the other joint tenants. See "tenancy in common."
judge
A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.
judgment
A judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application; a decision, the judge's reasons. A judge's written or oral decision will include the judge's conclusions about the relief or remedies claimed as well as their findings of fact and conclusions of law. A written decision is called the judge’s "reasons for judgment." See "common law," "conclusions of law," "findings of fact," and "final judgment."
jurisdiction
With respect to courts, the authority of the court to hear an action and make orders; the limits of the authority of a particular judicial official; the geographic location of a court; the territorial limits of a court's authority. With respect to governments, the authority of a government to make legislation as determined by the constitution; the limits of authority of a particular government agents. See “constitution."
justice
A judge of the superior courts of British Columbia, being the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
justice of the peace
A court official appointed by the provincial government with limited decision-making authority and jurisdiction, usually charged with managing court schedules, the terms of release of arrested persons and other administrative tasks with a discretionary element. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

L

land
Real property; a parcel of real property and the buildings upon it. See also "chattel," "ownership" and "possession."
Land (Spouse Protection) Act
Provincial legislation allowing married and unmarried spouses to file an "entry" on the title of the family home, whether court proceedings have been started or not, that will prevent the property from being transferred without their consent. See "family home."
Land Title Act
Provincial legislation governing the ownership and transfer of land in British Columbia, including the issuance and registration of Certificates of Pending Litigation, liens, judgments and mortgages. See "encumbrance" and "real property."
Land Title and Survey Authority
The provincial government agency responsible for maintaining written records of the ownership of real property in the province, together with a record of the encumbrances which may be registered against a property. See "Land Title Act" and "real property."
last will and testament
A legal document in which a person sets out how he wishes their property to be disposed of after death; a will. See "will."
lawful
Conduct that is permitted both by legislation and by the common law; conduct that is not prohibited by law. See "unlawful."
lawyer
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
lawyer's fees
The money charged by a lawyer to their client for the lawyer's services, usually pursuant to the terms of the lawyer's retainer agreement. Most family law lawyers bill by the hour with a premium for success or the difficulty or novelty of the case. A lawyer's bill may include "disbursements," costs incurred by the lawyer for such things as courier fees, court fees or photocopying expenses. See "account" and "certificate of fees."
lay litigant
A party to a court proceeding who is not represented by a lawyer and acts on their own behalf; a self-represented litigant, a pro se litigant. "Lay" in this context means without professional training. See "action," "lawyer" and "litigant."
leading question
A question asked of a witness, normally during cross-examination, which suggests the answer. For example: "You've never worked a day in your life, have you?" See "cross-examination."
lease
An agreement which requires payment for the use of property, under which the owner of property, like a car or an apartment, gives up the right to occupy and use that property in exchange for a sum of money. A "lessor" is the person who retains ownership of the property and receives money for its use. A "lessee" is the person who purchases the right of possession and use of the property.
legal description
In real property law, the full formal identification of a particular piece of property by its lot number, district lot number, block number, plan number and land district, rather than by its street address. See "Land Title and Survey Authority," "PID" and "real property."
legal duty
An obligation at law to do or not do a thing, whether by legislation, the common law or an order of the court. For example, the Criminal Code imposes a legal duty on parents that requires them to provide the necessities of life to their children until they turn 16. See "duty."
legislate
The power of a government to create and revise written laws governing things, people and places; a right of the provincial and federal governments to propose, enact and enforce laws derived from the Constitution. See "act" and "constitution."
legislation
An act; a statute; a written law made by a government. See "regulations."
limitation period
A time period after which someone may not make a claim because the right to do so has expired. The time for making a claim is set by legislation, and limitation periods will differ depending on the type of claim or the relationship between people making and defending the claim.
lis pendens
The old name of a document filed in the Land Title and Survey Authority against the title of real property stating that the property is the subject of a court proceeding and that ownership of the property may change as a result, now known as a Certificate of Pending Litigation. See "Certificate of Pending Litigation."
litigant
A party to a court proceeding, such as an appellant, an applicant, a claimant or a respondent. See "action."
LL.B
To practise law in British Columbia one requires a law degree in the form of either a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.) or a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.). “LL.M." stands for a Master of Laws degree and “LL.D." for a Doctor of Laws.

M

maintenance
In family law, an antiquated term referring to child support and spousal support. See "child support" and "spousal support."
male fides
A Latin phrase meaning “in bad faith." Intentionally misleading someone else, whether by doing or not doing something; acting in a manner contrary to one's actual intention; failing to act honestly and openly. See "good faith."
malfeasance
Doing an act that is wrongful or unlawful by operation of law. A "malfeasor" is a person who has committed a wrongful or unlawful act. See "unlawful."
marriage
A legal relationship between two persons, whether of the same or opposite genders, that is solemnized by a marriage commissioner or licenced religious official and gives rise to certain mutual rights, benefits and obligations. See also "conjugal rights," "consortium" and "marriage, validity of."
marriage, validity of
For a marriage to be valid, the spouses must be unmarried at the time of the marriage, not within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and capable of understanding the meaning of marriage, and the marriage must be performed by a person entitled to solemnize marriage in the jurisdiction where the marriage is performed under the laws of that jurisdiction. See "age of majority," "bigamy," "consanguinity" and "disability."
Marriage Act
Provincial legislation that governs the capacity to marry and the formalities of the marriage ceremony.
marriage agreement
An agreement signed by people who are planning on marrying or have married that is intended to govern their rights and obligations in the event of the breakdown of their marriage and, sometimes, their rights and obligations during their marriage. See "family law agreement."
marriage-like relationship
In family law, the quality of an unmarried couple's relationship that demonstrates their commitment to each other, their perception of themselves as a couple and their willingness to sacrifice individual advantages for the advantage of themselves as a couple; a legal requirement for a couple to be considered spouses without marrying. See "cohabitation," "marriage" and "spouse."
Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act
Federal legislation that describes the degrees of relatedness within which persons cannot marry.
married spouse
A person who is validly married to another person as a result of a ceremony presided over by someone with the authority to conduct marriages. See "marriage" and "unmarried spouse."
master
A provincially-appointed judicial official with limited jurisdiction usually charged with making decisions before and after final judgment in a court proceeding, including the hearing of interim applications, the assessment of lawyers' bills and the settling of bills of cost. See "interim application," "judge," and "jurisdiction."
material
In law, something that is relevant, important. A material fact is a fact relevant to a claim or a defence to a claim. See "claim," "evidence," and "fact."
matrimonial home
In family law, the dwelling occupied by a family as their primary residence. See "family property" and "real property."
mediation
A dispute resolution process in which a specially-trained neutral person facilitates discussions between the parties to a legal dispute and helps them reach a compromise settling the dispute. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law mediator."
memorandum of understanding
A document setting out the essential terms of a settlement reached between two or more people resolving a legal dispute, often used as a guide to the more complete terms of a final agreement or final order to be made with the consent of the signatories. See "consent order" and "family law agreements."
minor
A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. Not to be confused with "miner." See "age of majority."
minutes of settlement
A document setting out the essential terms of an agreement reached between two or more parties to a court proceeding, produced after negotiations and signed by the parties and their lawyers. Minutes of settlement are normally used as a guide to the more complete terms of a final order to be made with the consent of the parties and are often attached to that order as a schedule. See "consent order," "family law agreements," "litigant" and "order."
miscarriage of justice
A term referring to the demonstrable and traumatic failure of the justice system in a particular court proceeding.
misrepresentation
Acts or words tending or intended to give a misleading or false impression as to the true state of affairs. See "bad faith."
mistake
In law, an unintentional act or failure to act arising from a misunderstanding of the true state of affairs, from ignorance, or from an error not made in bad faith. In contract law, an unintentional misunderstanding as to the nature of a term agreed to in a contract. See "bad faith" and "contract."
mortgage
The conditional transfer of the title to real property by an owner to another person in return for money given by that person as a loan, while retaining possession of the property. The party to whom title is given, the "mortgagee," usually a bank, is allowed to register the title of the property in their name if the person taking the loan, the "mortgagor," fails to make the required payments. See "encumbrance" and "real property."
motion
In law, an application to the court for an order, usually brought after the commencement of a court proceeding but before its conclusion following by trial or settlement; an interim application. See "action," "interim application" and "order."

N

natural parent
A biological or birth parent of a child, as opposed to an adoptive parent or a stepparent. See "adoptive parent" and "stepparent."
negligence
Failing to do something that a reasonable person would do, or doing something that a reasonable person would not do, which results in harm to someone else.
negotiation
In family law, the process by which an agreement is formed between the parties to a legal dispute resolving that dispute, usually requiring mutual compromise from the parties' original positions to the extent tolerable by each party. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law agreements."
net income
The remainder of a person’s annual income after the mandatory deductions have been paid, which may include CPP, EI, income taxes and union or professional dues. For self-employed persons, necessary and reasonable business and operating expenses may also be deducted to determine net income.
nil
A short form of the Latin word nihil meaning "nothing"; usually used to indicate a zero value. See "null and void."
non compos mentis
A Latin phrase meaning "not of sound mind.” A legal disability arising from mental infirmity. See "disability."
notary public
A person authorized to administer affirmations and oaths, and to execute or certify documents. All lawyers are notaries public in addition to being barristers and solicitors. See "barrister and solicitor.”
Notice of Appeal
A legal document required by the rules of court which is used to give notice of a party's intention to appeal a decision. See "appeal" and "decision."
Notice of Application
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to bring an interim application, setting out the relief claimed by the applicant, the grounds on which that relief is claimed, and the date on which the application will be heard. See "applicant," "grounds," "interim application" and "relief."
Notice of Family Claim
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to begin a court proceeding, setting out the relief claimed by the claimant and the grounds on which that relief is claimed. See "action," "claim," "claimant," "pleadings" and "relief."
Notice of Hearing
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules that fixes the date for the hearing of a Petition. See "hearing" and "Petition."

O

oath
In law, a guarantee of the truth of a statement secured by one's faith in a god, and the prospect of torment in the afterlife in the event the promise is falsely made. Someone making an affidavit will often give their evidence in that affidavit under oath; a witness giving oral evidence will often give their evidence in court under oath. See "affidavit," "affirm," "perjury" and "witness."
obligation
A duty, whether contractual, moral or legal in origin, to do or not do something. See "duty."
obstruction of justice
Doing a thing or not doing a thing with the intention or effect of hindering the proper administration of justice. See "contempt of court."
Offence Act
Provincial legislation that sets out the consequences for committing an offence under provincial laws, and the process by which a complaint that someone has committed a provincial offence is made and heard.
offer
In contact law, the expression, either orally or in writing, of a willingness to be bound by a proposed agreement, contract or settlement. See "offer to settle."
offer to settle
A proposal made by one party to the other, prior to the trial of a court proceeding (or its conclusion) or the hearing of an application, setting out the terms on which the party is prepared to settle the trial or application. Offers to settle can have important consequences with respect to costs if the offer is close to what the judge decides following trial, but must be clear and precise, and contain certain language required by the Supreme Court Family Rules. See "costs."
officer of the court
An official of the court, including court clerks, sheriffs, lawyers, and judges.
onus
The obligation of a party to prove their case; the burden of proof. The onus usually lies on the party who makes a claim, although in certain circumstances this burden is reversed, usually by operation of statute.
omission
In law, a failure to do something, whether the failure was intentional or unintentional.
opinion
In law, a lawyer's advice to their client; a lawyer's analysis of a legal problem; the views of an expert as to a matter at issue in an action. See "expert evidence" and "opinion evidence."
opinion evidence
Evidence given orally at trial or in writing in by affidavit concerning a witness' convictions, feelings or views on something. Opinion evidence is inadmissible except when the opinion is offered by an expert on a subject within their expertise. See "affidavit," "evidence," "expert" and "witness."
order
A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration."
ordinary service
Sending legal documents to a party at that party's "address for service," usually by mail, fax or email. Certain documents, like a Notice of Family Claim, must be served on the other party by personal service. Most other documents may be served by ordinary service. See also "address for service" and "personal service."
ownership
A legal right to have and use a thing that is enforceable in court. See "possession."

P

paramountcy, doctrine of
In constitutional law, the rule that a federal law on a subject is superior to and takes precedence over a provincial law on the same subject where it is impossible to comply with both laws. See "act" and "constitution."
parens patriae
A Latin phrase meaning "parent of the country." Refers to the court's inherent jurisdiction to deal with issues concerning persons under a legal disability, including children. See "children," "disability" and "jurisdiction."
parent
In family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent" and "stepparent."
parental responsibilities
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the various rights, duties and responsibilities exercised by guardians in the care, upbringing and management of the children in their care, including determining the child's education, diet, religious instruction or lack thereof, medical care, linguistic and cultural instruction, and so forth. See "guardian."
parenting arrangements
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time among guardians, made in an order or agreement. "Parenting arrangements" does not include contact. See "contact," "guardian," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time."
parenting coordination
A child-focused dispute resolution process used to resolve disputes about parenting arrangements and the implementation of a parenting plan set out in a final order or agreement. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "parenting coordinator."
parenting coordinator
A lawyer or mental health professional with special training in the mediation and arbitration of family law disputes, family dynamics and child developmental psychology who meets the training and experience requirements set out in the provincial Family Law Act Regulation.
parenting time
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the time a guardian has with a child and during which is responsible for the day to day care of the child. See "guardian."
parol evidence
Oral evidence given in court, as opposed to written or physical evidence. See "evidence" and "witness."
partition
In law, the division of the ownership of a piece of real property between two or more people. See "real property."
party
In law, a person named as an applicant, claimant, respondent or third party in a court proceeding; someone asserting a claim in a court proceeding or against whom a claim has been brought. See "action" and "litigant."
paternity
Fatherhood of a child, often contested by persons seeking to avoid a child support obligation. See "bastard."
paternity test
A scientific test performed to determine the biological parentage of a child, usually performed by the genetic testing of the blood or saliva of the alleged parents and the child.
peace officer
A person having a duty to enforce the law as a result of their position or employment, including municipal police officers as well as RCMP officers, sheriffs, customs officers and mayors, among others.
pecuniary
Relating to money, which is exactly what someone who is "impecunious" doesn't have a great deal of. See "indigent."
peremptory
Something which is fixed, mandatory or absolute. A peremptory hearing date, for example, is a date on which a hearing will absolutely proceed without any further adjournments or delay.
perfected
In contract law, finished, legally complete and enforceable; executed. A "perfected" agreement is one that has been dated and signed by all parties in the presence of one or more witnesses.
performance
In contract law, the fulfillment of an obligation or duty arising from a contract.
perjury
Intentionally lying to the court while giving evidence under oath or affirmation, including lying in a document made on oath or affirmation, such as an affidavit or a Financial Statement. This is a criminal offence and may also addressed by the court through its powers to punish for contempt. See "contempt of court."
personal property
Chattels, goods, money; property other than real property. See "chattel" and "real property."
personal service
In law, the delivery of a legal document to a party in a court proceeding in a manner which complies with the rules of court, usually by physically handing the document to the party and verifying their identity. Personal service is usually required for the proper delivery of the pleadings that are used to start a proceeding to ensure that the party is given proper notice of the proceeding and the opportunity to mount a defence. See also "ordinary service," "pleadings" and "service, substituted."
Petition
A court form required by the Supreme Court Family Rules used to commence court proceedings that can be dealt with in the manner of an application, without the need for a protracted process of disclosure and discovery. See "action," "application," "disclosure" and "discovery."
petition respondent
The person against whom a court proceeding has been started by Petition. See "Petition."
petitioner
A person starting a court proceeding by Petition. See "Petition."
PID
The short form for "Parcel Identifier Description," a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Land Title and Survey Authority assigned to each parcel of real property in the province. See "Land Title and Survey Authority" and "real property."
platypus
A duck-billed egg-laying aquatic mammal, the males of which are venomous.
pleading
A legal document setting out either a claim or a defence to a claim prepared at or following the start of a court proceeding. In the Provincial Court, the pleadings are the Application to Obtain an Order and Reply. In the Supreme Court, the pleadings include the Notice of Family Claim, Response to Family Claim, Counterclaim, Petition and Response to Petition. See "action," "claim" and "Counterclaim."
polygamy
The act going through a marriage ceremony or performing a marriage ceremony between three or more persons or with a person who is already married to more than two other persons . This is a criminal offence in Canada, under s. 293 of the Criminal Code, although one that is rarely enforced. All marriages subsequent to the first valid, subsisting marriage are void ab initio. See "ab initio," "bigamy" and "marriage, validity of."
possession
In law, the right to have the control and use of a thing. One can have a right to the possession of a thing without owning it, as in the case of a car lease, or ownership without possession, as in the case of a landlord who rents an apartment suite. See "ownership."
preamble
An introductory statement in legislation, an order or an agreement usually describing the purpose of the legislation or the parties to the order or agreement. Preambles are normally used to provide a guide the to interpretation of the rest of the document. See "act" and "family law agreements."
precedent
Historical decisions of the courts; the principle that such historic decisions of the court are binding on subsequent judges hearing cases of a similar nature or of a similar circumstances. Templates or sample documents used to draft new documents. See "common law."
premises
In real property law, a piece of property and a building situated on it, usually including the area of the property surrounding a building on that property. In law generally, a premise is an assumption that founds a logical argument. See "argument" and "real property."
prima facie
A Latin phrase meaning at "first face." Refers to a fact or circumstance that is obvious at first glance or that is easily proven.
privilege
In law, the duty a lawyer has to keep their client’s information confidential, including communications between the lawyer and client and advice given to the client; the client's right to have their confidential communications kept secret and protected from disclosure. See "lawyer."
probate
The process of checking the validity of a will, distributing a dead person’s estate and settling their debts according to the instructions set out in that person's will. See "estate" and "will."
pro bono
A Latin phrase short for pro bono publico, meaning "for the public good." Usually refers to those situations in which a lawyer voluntarily performs a legal service without charge. See "lawyer."
proceeding
In law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action."
proof
Evidence which establishes or tends to establish the truth of a fact; also, the conclusion of a logical argument. See "evidence" and "premises."
property
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
protection order
An order available under the Family Law Act for the protection of a person at risk of family violence. Protection orders include orders restraining someone from harassing, contacting or stalking a person, restraining someone from going to a person's home, place of employment or school. See "application," "ex parte" and "restraining order."
Provincial Court
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a court proceeding. Small Claims Court, for example, cannot deal with claims larger than $25,000, and Family Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

Q

QC
The abbreviation of "Queen's Counsel." A QC is an honour often but not invariably granted to lawyers of particular excellence, and may also be granted for other reasons such as service to the legal community, the public or a political party.
quantum meruit
A Latin phrase meaning "the amount deserved." Refers to payment for a service according to the amount deserved for the performance of the service, often calculated by an hourly wage.
quantum valebant
A Latin phrase meaning "the amount worth." Refers to the payment for a service according to the value or benefit of the service received.
quash
To set aside or vacate an order, direction, decision or judgment. See "action," "dismiss" and "order."
question of fact
An issue arising where the parties disagree about a fact relevant to a court proceeding, when only one party can be right. A court's decision about what the facts of a case are called the court's "findings of fact." See "finding of fact."
question of law
An issue about which law should be applied to determine a court proceeding or about or how the law should be applied in a proceeding. A court's decision about how the law or how it should be applied is a "finding of law." See "finding of law."
quid pro quo
A Latin phrase meaning "this for that." Refers to a benefit offered or owing in exchange for a benefit received. See "contract law."

R

real property
A parcel of land and the buildings on that land. See "chattel," "ownership" and "possession."
reapportion
In family law, the unequal division of family property or family debt between spouses. See "apportion," "family debt," and "family property."
rebut
In law, to reply to an argument, a statement of fact or a legal presumption by presenting argument or evidence to the contrary, or evidence which tends to disturb a presumption.
reconciliation
In family law, the resumption of cohabitation between married spouses or unmarried spouses with the intention of salvaging their relationship and making another go of it. See "separation."
registrar
An officer of the court with the power to make certain decisions, including the settlement of a lawyer’s bill, a party's costs of a court proceeding and settling the form of an order. An officer of the court charged with the responsibility of reviewing and approving certain documents submitted to the court, such as pleadings. See "jurisdiction" and "pleadings."
registry
A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched and reviewed; a courthouse.
regulations
A kind of legislation that provides supplemental rules for a particular act. Regulations are created and amended by the government, not by the legislature, and as a result the legislature has no right to a say in how or what regulations are imposed by government. See "act."
rehearing
A reconsideration or retrial of a court proceeding or an application, sometimes based on the evidence which was presented at the first hearing or trial, sometimes based on new evidence. See "action," "application," "de novo" and "hearing."
release
In family law, a legal document in which a person gives up a right or a claim, or the entitlement to enforce a right or advance a claim; a waiver. Releases are usually signed following the settlement of a court proceeding or legal dispute. See "action" and "claim."
relief
In law, an order sought by a party to a court proceeding or application, usually as described in their pleadings. Where more than one order or type of order is sought, each order sought is called a "head of relief." See "action," "application" and "pleadings."
reply
In law, an answer or rebuttal to a claim made or a defence raised by the other party to court proceeding or legal dispute. See "action," "claim," "defence" and "rebut."
Reply
A legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to respond to a claim made in an applicant's Application to Obtain an Order. See "applicant," "Application to Obtain an Order," "claim," and "Counterclaim."
representation
In contact law, a promise made by someone about a certain state of affairs, like "the plumbing was replaced last year" or "I had a vasectomy two years ago." See "misrepresentation."
rescind
To terminate or revoke a contract or agreement. See "contract" and "family law agreements."
residence
The geographic place where a person permanently lives. This is different from a person's "domicile" in that a person's residence is more fixed and less changeable in nature. A person's residence can also have an impact on a court's authority to hear and decide a legal action. See "domicile" and "jurisdiction."
res judicata
A Latin phrase meaning "a thing decided." A final order, unlike an interim order, permanently concludes a legal dispute and usually a court proceeding, unless it is appealed; the final order makes the legal issues raised in the proceeding res judicata. See "appeal" and "final order."
Response to Family Claim
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out their reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for their reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim" and "pleadings."
respondent
The person against whom a claim has been brought by Notice of Family Claim. See “application” and “Notice of Family Claim."
restraining order
An order which forbids a party from doing or not doing a thing. In family law, common restraining orders include stopping someone from travelling out of an area with the children, stopping someone from disposing of property, and stopping someone from harassing someone else. See "ex parte," "order" and "protection order."
resulting trust
In family law, the finding by a court that a party holds all or a part of his her property in trust for someone else as a result of the parties' intention to make a trust; a trust relationship inferred by operation of law. See "constructive trust" and "trust."
retainer
The act of hiring of lawyer; the money paid by a lawyer to secure their services; the terms and extent of a lawyer's services on behalf of a client.
reversal
In law, usually refers to a decision of an appeal court overturning the decision of a lower court on a particular issue. The lower court's decision is said to have been "reversed on appeal." See "appeal" and "common law."
review
In law, the re-examination of a term of an order or agreement, usually to determine whether the term remains fair and appropriate in light of the circumstances prevailing at the time of the review. In family law, particularly the review of an order or agreement provided for the payment of spousal support. See "de novo," "family law agreements," "order" and "spousal support."
right of action
A right to claim relief resulting from a person's behaviour. For example, a spouse's adultery may give rise to a right of action allowing the other spouse to sue for a divorce order.
rules of court
The guidelines governing the court process and the conduct of litigation generally. Each court has its own rules of court.

S

sale
An agreement to transfer the ownership of property from one person to another in exchange for the reciprocal transfer of something else, usually money. See "agreement."
self-represented litigant
A party to a court proceeding who is not represented by a lawyer and acts on their own behalf; a lay litigant, a pro se litigant. See "action," "lawyer" and "litigant."
separation
In family law, the decision of one or both parties to terminate a married or unmarried relationship; the act of one person leaving the family home to live somewhere else with the intention of terminating the relationship. There is no such thing as a "legal separation." In general, one separates by simply moving out, however it is possible to be separated but still live under the same roof. See "divorce, grounds of."
separation agreement
A contract intended to resolve all or some of the legal issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship and intended to guide the parties in their dealings with one another thereafter. A typical separation agreement is signed following a settlement reached through negotiations and deals with issues including guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact, support, the division of property and the division of debt. See "family law agreements."
service
In law, to formally deliver documents to a person in a manner that complies with the applicable rules of court. Service may be ordinary (mailed or delivered to a litigant's address for service), personal (hand-delivered to a person) or substituted (performed in a way other than the rules normally require). See "address for delivery," "ordinary service," "personal service" and "substituted service."
service ex juris
A Latin phrase meaning serivce "out of the jurisdiction;" refers to service of legal documents on someone living outside of British Columbia in the manner required by the rules of court or a court order. See "personal service."
settlement
A resolution of one or more issues in a court proceeding or legal dispute with the agreement of the parties to the proceeding or dispute, usually recorded in a written agreement or in an order that all parties agree the court should make. A court proceeding can be settled at any time before the conclusion of trial. See "action," "consent order," "family law agreements" and "offer."
shared custody
A term used by the Child Support Guidelines to describe circumstances in which a child's time is shared equally or almost-equally between their parents or guardians, often resulting in an amount of support that is different than the table amount. See "child support," "Child Support Guidelines" and "table amount."
sine die
A Latin phrase meaning "without a day." An application adjourned sine die has been adjourned without a specific date being set for the hearing, often in the expectation that it will never need to be set for hearing. See "adjournment" and "application."
split custody
A term used by the Child Support Guidelines to describe circumstances in which one or more children live most of the time with each parent or guardian, resulting in an amount of support that is different than the table amount. See "child support," "Child Support Guidelines" and "table amount."
spousal support
Money paid by one spouse to another spouse either as a contribution toward the spouse's living expenses or to compensate the spouse for the economic consequences of decisions made by the spouses during their relationship.
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
An academic paper released by the Department of Justice that describes a variety of mathematic formulas that can be applied to determine how much spousal support should be paid and how long spousal support should be paid for, once a spouse is found to be entitled to receive support. The Advisory Guidelines is not a law, but is nonetheless very useful.
spouse
Under the Divorce Act, either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the Family Law Act, married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."
standing
The right of a party to bring a particular claim under a particular act before a particular court. In most cases, someone who does not have a direct or private interest in the matter at issue lacks standing to be a party in the court action.
stare decisis
A Latin phrase meaning "stand by the thing decided." Refers to the common law principle that courts are obliged to follow the decisions of the courts before them, known as "precedent." See "common law" and "precedent."
status quo
A Latin phrase meaning "the state that was." Refers to whatever circumstances or conditions previously existed, or which presently exist and have existed in the same way for some time.
statute
An act, legislation; a written law made by a government.
statutory declaration
A written statement made on affirmation or oath pursuant to the requirements of a particular piece of legislation. See "act," "affidavit," "affirm" and "oath."
stepparent
The spouse of a person who has children from a previous relationship. A stepparent may qualify as a "parent" for the purposes of issues relating to child support and the care and control of a child under both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. See "parent" and "spouse."
subpoena
A legal document, issued by a court or by a party pursuant to the rules of court, which compels a person to attend court to give evidence as a witness, and, sometimes, to produce a specific document. Failure to obey a subpoena may constitute contempt of court. See "contempt of court," "evidence" and "witness."
substituted service
Personal service performed in a way other than required by the rules of court, as may be authorized by the court. If a respondent cannot be served for any reason, such as if they are hiding or refusing service, the court may permit a claimant to serve the other party "substitutionally" by means including an ad in the legal notices section of a newspaper's classified ads or posting the document in the court registry. See "personal service."
suit
In law, a court proceeding, a lawsuit, a legal action, a case; a claimant's claim against a respondent. In fashion, menswear designed to inflict maximum discomfort at maximum cost. See "action."
Supreme Court
Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."
Supreme Court of Canada
The highest level of court in Canada. This court hears appeals from the decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and the provincial courts of appeal, including the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. There is no court to appeal to beyond this court. See "Court of Appeal" and "Supreme Court."

T

table amount
The amount of child support payable under the Child Support Guidelines tables. See "Child Support Guidelines."
tenancy in common
A kind of co-ownership of property in which two or more owners have distinct shares in the common property. A tenant in common may choose to sell or mortgage their share of the property independently from other owners. See "joint tenancy."
term of art
A phrase that has a particular meaning in law that is usually distinct from the common English meaning of the phrase, like the phrase "term of art."
testator
In estate law, a person who has made a will. The feminine form of this word is "testatrix." See "estate" and "will."
testimony
Oral evidence given by a witness in court or in an affidavit under witness' oath or affirmation as to the truth of the statement. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath" and "witness."
third party
A person named in a court proceeding or joined to a proceeding who is neither the claimant nor the respondent. A third party may be joined to a proceeding where the respondent believes that the person has or shares some responsibility for the cause of action. See "action," "cause of action" and "party."
time, calculation of
A particular method for counting time for a legal deadline, as required by the rules of court and the Interpretation Act. See "business days," "calendar days" and "clear days."
title
In law, a document demonstrating ownership of a thing. See "ownership."
transfer
In property law, the act of an owner of a thing giving ownership of that thing to another person, in exchange for money or other property in the case of a sale or in exchange for other rights in the case of a family law agreement. See "family law agreements," "ownership" and "sale."
trial
The testing of the claims at issue in a court proceeding at a formal hearing before a judge with the jurisdiction to hear the proceeding. The parties present their evidence and arguments to the judge, who then makes a determination of the parties' claims against one another that is final and binding on the parties unless appealed. See "action," "appeal," "argument," "claim," "evidence" and "jurisdiction."
trust
In law, a form of possession of property in which a "trustee" keeps and manages property for the benefit of another person, the "beneficiary," without owning that property and usually without acquiring an interest in that property other than as payment for their services. The trustee holds the property in trust for the beneficiary. See "constructive trust," "ownership," "possession" and "resulting trust."
trustee
A person who holds property in trust for the benefit of another person. See "trust."

U

undue hardship
A term used by the Child Support Guidelines to describe circumstances when payment of the table amount of child support would cause financial difficulty for the payor or the recipient, potentially justifying an award of support in an amount different than the table amount. See "child support," "Child Support Guidelines" and "table amount."
unjust enrichment
Money, services or other benefits unfairly received by a person at a corresponding or loss to another person. See "constructive trust."
unlawful
Acts or omissions that are contrary to legislation or the common law. See "lawful."
unmarried spouse
Someone who is a spouse by the operation of a statute. Under the Family Law Act, unmarried spouses are people who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, or, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage-like relationship," "marriage" and "married spouse."

V

vacate
In law, the decision of a court to set aside or quash an earlier decision or order, sometimes as if the original order had never been made and other times effective only as of the date the order is vacated. See "appeal," "decision" and "quash."
vendor
A seller of a thing. See "sale."
verdict
In law, a judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application; a judgment, the judge's reasons. Usually used in a criminal law context to indicate the judge's conclusions as to the guilt or innocence of an accused person. See "decision."

W

waive
In law, to give up a right or entitlement; to give up the opportunity to assert a right or enforce an entitlement. See "release."
waste
In law, intentionally or unintentionally allowing the value of a piece of property to diminish through carelessness, neglect or purposeful harm.
without prejudice
In the context of negotiation or mediation, an arrangement that neither party will be able to use the content of the settlement discussions in a court proceeding. In the context of litigation, an arrangement that agreement to a certain order will not affect the legal rights of either party. In the context of a settlement proposal, a stipulation that the contents of the proposal may not be shown to the court until the court proceeding has concluded. See "consent order," "mediation," "negotiation," "offer to settle" and "settlement."
witness
A person with direct, personal knowledge of facts and events; a person giving oral evidence in court on oath or affirmation as to the truth of the evidence given. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath" and "opinion evidence."
wrongful act
Acts or omissions that are contrary to legislation, the common law or that are immoral or unethical even if not necessarily contrary to a legal principle. See "lawful."
WTF
A litigator's mnemonic device for the order of events at trial, short for "Witnesses Testify First." Usually followed by AGL, "Arguments Go Last."

Y

YOLO
In criminal law, an acronym referring to a youth's last offence before turning 18, the age at which the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act ceases to apply. Short for "Young Offender's Last Offence."
youth
In law, in British Columbia a person under the age of 19.
yurt
A circular tent of felt or skins used by the nomadic tribespeople of Mongolia and Turkey.

Z

zygostates
In law, an officer appointed to resolve disagreements about the weight of money.


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