What the Words Mean in Learning about the Law

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Fundamentals of law and criminal and civil law[edit]

adjudicator
Someone who makes a formal judgment on a disputed matter, such as a judge in a court.
appeal
Ask a higher court to overturn a lower court's decision.
arrest
Take someone into custody by legal authority.
confidential
Something that is meant to be kept a secret from non-approved people.
cross-examine
To question an opposing party’s witness in order to challenge or clarify their testimony in a court proceeding.
discrimination
The practice of treating one person or group differently from another in an unfair way.
elected
Chosen by popular vote to fill a position, usually political.
equality
A situation where people are treated the same way despite their cultural, social or economic differences.
federal
Matters or institutions that deal with the whole country where different provinces or states also have their own institutions and responsibilities.
guilty
Found to be responsible for a wrongdoing.
innocent
Found to be not responsible for a wrongdoing.
judgment
A decision on a dispute. In law, it is a decision by a court on a contested matter.
jurisdiction
The right to use an official power to make legal decisions, or the area where this right exists.
Legislative Assembly
The group of individuals who, meeting in regular session, have the power to pass laws provincially. In Canada, each province has a legislative assembly whose members are elected by popular vote at general elections.
mediator
Someone who tries to bring parties in dispute to a mutual agreement or resolution.
municipal government
The government for a local area, usually a city or a district.
parole
The release of a prisoner before his or her full sentence is served on a promise of good behavior in future.
politicians
People who involve themselves in matters related to governing a territory.
punishment
The penalty given to a wrongdoer.
regulate
Control or supervise by means of rules and regulations.
representatives
People chosen to act and speak on behalf of a wider group.
responsibilities
The things one is required to do or not do as part of a legal obligation, a job or a role.
rights
Legal or moral entitlement to have or do something.
social services
Services provided by the government or other organizations for the benefit of the community.
trial
A court procedure to examine the evidence in a disputed matter, whether criminal or civil, to arrive at a legal judgment.
tribunals
Official legal forums set up to decide or pass judgment on disputed matters.
young offenders
Criminal offenders who are 12 years or older and 18 years or younger. Among other things, they are subject to less severe sentences than adults, and their names are generally not publicized. For certain serious offences, youths aged 14-18 can be tried and sentenced as adults.

Family law[edit]

adultery
Sex between someone who is married and someone who is not their spouse.
agreement
A written contract that sets out how spouses have agreed to deal with things like parenting, support, and property.
Child's best interests
A legal test used in family law cases to decide what would best protect your child's: physical, psychological, and emotional safety; security; and well-being.
Child Support Guidelines
The amount of money the person who is paying support must pay. The amount depends on how many children you have. The Guidelines are online on CanLII.
collaborative family law
A situation that involves two or more people working together, usually with lawyers, to reach an agreement or end a dispute.
common-law relationship
A relationship that is considered to be marriage-like because the couple has lived together for at least two years.
consent order
A court order that both spouses agree to.
contact
The time that a person who is not a guardian spends with the child. This person could be a parent who does not have guardianship or another relative, like a grandparent.
contract
An agreement that the law can enforce.
contribute
To give or supply in common with others; to help bring about something better.
court order
An order or decision made by a law court.
custom
Something that is done by people in a particular society because it is traditional.
dispute resolution
A process in which two people work through their family law issues with a trained professional, like a mediator.
divorce
The legal ending of a marriage.
duty counsel
Lawyers who work at the courthouse. They can give you advice about your family case.
enforcement
When people are made to obey a rule, law etc.
excluded property
Any property that is not considered family property.
family debts
Debts that you take on during your relationship that you still owe on the date you separate. They can also be debts you take on after your separation date to maintain family property.
family property
Family property is everything either you or your spouse own together or separately on the date you separate.
final order
A court order that does not have a time limit. It is permanent.
guardian
A person who has the right to make decisions about a child, such as:
  • where the child will live or go to school,
  • the sort of medical and dental care the child will receive, and
  • what religion the child will be raised in.
guardianship
The position of being legally responsible for a child.
impartial
Not involved in a particular situation, and therefore able to give a fair opinion or piece of advice.
interim order
A temporary court order. It has a time limit. You can get an interim order when you need to make decisions right away.
intention
A plan to do something.
mediator
A person that tries to end a dispute between people by discussion.
parental responsibilities
The responsibility of guardian(s) is to make decisions about the child’s life. These can include decisions about daily care, as well as larger ones about health care, education, religious upbringing, etc.
parenting arrangements
Arrangements made for parental responsibilities and parenting time in a court order or agreement between guardians.
parenting time
The time that a guardian has with a child under an order or agreement.
permission
To allow someone to do something.
protection order
A court order made to protect someone from violence.
relocate
Move out of the area, move to another place.
responsibility
Something a person must do.
separation
A situation in which a married couple or common-law couple agree to live apart.
spouse
A married person or a person in marriage-like relationship.
temporary
For a limited time only.

Young people and the law[edit]

anonymously
You do not have to give your name, for example, when you phone a help line.
confidential
When information is confidential, the person you tell is not allowed to tell anyone else about it.
contribute
To help bring about something better.
court order
An order or decision made by a law court.
custom
Something that is done by people in a particular society because it is traditional.
discipline
To punish someone in order to keep order and control.
discrimination
Treating someone differently from other people in a way that is unfair.
mistreated
To treat badly, to abuse.
permission
To allow someone to do something.
responsibility
Something a person must do.
sentence
The punishment a person receives after being found guilty of or pleading guilty to committing a crime.
young offender
Criminal offenders who are 12 years or older and 18 years or younger.
youth record
A record of a young person's involvement in Canada's youth justice system.

Elder law[edit]

advance directive
Instructions to your representative or to your doctor about what kind of health care you want and don't want if you have a serious medical condition. Sometimes called a "living will."
alternate attorney
An alternate person who can manage your financial, business and legal matters if your attorney cannot.
attorney
A person you appoint to manage financial, business and legal matters for you.
confidential
Will not be shared with anyone else, e.g., confidential information.
designated agencies
Agencies that have a legal responsibility to look into reports of adult abuse and neglect.
donor
The person who gives power of attorney to someone to manage.
enduring power of attorney
A power of attorney that continues if you become mentally incapable.
enhanced representation agreement
Gives authority to your representative to make personal and health care decisions for you, possibly including end-of-life decisions.
estate
Everything that is left when you die.
executor
The person you appoint in your will to distribute your estate when you die. The executor carries out your instructions.
financial, business and legal matters
The time that a person who is not a guardian spends with the child. This person could be a parent who does not have guardianship or another relative, like a grandparent.
limited power of attorney
A power of attorney for a specific action, with a time limit.
mental capacity
The ability to understand decisions and make them.
mental incapacity/mentally incapable
Not having the ability to understand decisions and make them. Someone who cannot understand decisions and make them is mentally incapable.
mistreatment
Treating someone badly.
misuse
Using something in the wrong way.
power of attorney
A legal document that allows an attorney to manage your financial, business and legal matters for you.
representation agreement
A legal document that allows the person you name as your representative to make personal and health care decisions for you.
revoke
Cancel, end.
specific
Particular, distinct.
springing power of attorney
A power of attorney that takes effect only when a particular event has taken place.
standard representation agreement
Gives limited authority to your representative to make some health and routine financial decisions for you.
will
A written legal document that contains your instructions about what happens to your estate when you die.

Working in BC[edit]

appeal
A formal request to a court or to someone in authority asking for a decision to be changed.
averaging agreement
Agreements that permit hours of work to be averaged over a period of one, two, three or four weeks. Employees may agree to work up to 12 hours in a day, averaging 40 hours in a week, without being paid overtime.
collective agreement
An agreement between employers and employees which regulates the terms and conditions of employment in their workplace.
collective bargaining
A process of negotiation between the employer and employees aimed at reaching agreements.
compensation
Money paid to someone because they have suffered injury or loss (i.e. loss of employment), or because something they own has been damaged.
criminal record
A record of a person's criminal history.
dispute resolution
When someone solves a problem, argument, or difficult situation.
double-time
A rate of pay equal to double the standard rate.
entitlements
Things you have a right to under a law.
excludes
Keeps something or someone out of an agreement or situation.
inspector
A person whose job is to check that something is satisfactory and that rules are being obeyed.
layoff
Temporary or permanent termination of employment.
overtime
The amount of time someone works beyond their normal working hours.
pregnancy leave
A leave of absence for an expectant or new mother for the birth and care of the baby.
reference
A person who provides information about your character and abilities.
regulations
These are rules that say how a particular law should work in practice.
statutory holiday
A public holiday legislated either through federal, or a provincial or territorial government. Most workers can take the day off with regular pay.
terminate
To end. For example, if you are terminated you no longer have a job.

Renting a home[edit]

appeal
A formal request to a court or to someone in authority asking for a decision to be changed.
compensation
Money paid to someone because they have suffered a loss (e.g. the landlord is evicting a tenant in order to renovate the place, or tear it down, or move in).
criminal record
A record of a person’s criminal history.
dispute resolution
When someone solves a problem, argument, or difficult situation.
eviction
To tell someone legally that they must leave the house they are living in.
evidence
Facts or signs that show clearly that something exists or is true.
fixed-term tenancy (lease)
A tenancy agreement where the tenant agrees to live somewhere for a certain amount of time, such as 1 year.
giving notice
Give written notice to the landlord that you want to move out.
inspector
A person whose job is to check that something is satisfactory and that rules are being obeyed.
landlord
A person who owns property and rents or leases it to another person.
lease
A contract for the temporary use or occupation of an apartment or house in exchange for payment of rent.
month-to-month tenancy
A tenancy agreement with no fixed term.
regulations
These are rules that say how a particular law should work in practice.
rent
The amount of money the tenant pays the landlord each month for the right to live in the landlord’s property.
rent increase
An increase in a tenant’s rent.
Residential Tenancy Act
The law that says what tenants and landlords can and cannot do.
Residential Tenancy Branch
The government department in charge of tenant-landlord law.
security deposit
An amount of money that you give to a landlord before you rent a house or apartment, and that is returned to you after you leave if you have not damaged the property.
tenancy agreement
A form signed by the tenant and landlord saying what they agree to.
tenant
A person who pays rent to occupy the landlord’s house or apartment.
welfare
Welfare also referred to as social assistance or income assistance is government-managed funding for the basic necessities of life for those who cannot earn an income. An applicant for welfare must apply for the funding through the Ministry of Social Development. A self-serve assessment tool is available at www.eia.gov.bc.ca/bcea.htm.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2013.



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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."

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.

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.

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."

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."

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."

Oral evidence given by a witness in court or in an affidavit under the witness's oath or affirmation as to the truth of the statement. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath," and "witness."

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.

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 agency. See “constitution."

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."

A duty, whether contractual, moral, or legal in origin, to do or not do something. See "duty."

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."

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."

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 spouse who proves the adultery has not consented to or forgiven the adulterous act. See "collusion," "condonation," and "divorce, grounds of."

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."

Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."

A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."

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.

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.

An order resolving all or part of a court proceeding, on an interim or final basis, that the parties agree the court should make.

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."

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."

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."

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.

The processes used to conclusively resolve legal disputes including negotiation, collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

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."

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."

A lawyer paid by legal aid or the government who provides limited legal services to people on the day that they are in court.

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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, and restraining someone from going to a person's home, place of employment, or school. See "application," "ex parte," and "restraining order."

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."

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."

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."

In law, in British Columbia a person under the age of 19.

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.

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."

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."

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.

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.

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