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LEGAL TERMS

FAULT DIVORCE

A tradition that required one spouse to prove that the other spouse was legally at fault, to obtain a divorce. The 'innocent' spouse was then granted the divorc... (more...)
A tradition that required one spouse to prove that the other spouse was legally at fault, to obtain a divorce. The 'innocent' spouse was then granted the divorce from the 'guilty' spouse. Today, 35 states still allow a spouse to allege fault in obtaining a divorce. The traditional fault grounds for divorce are adultery, cruelty, desertion, confinement in prison, physical incapacity and incurable insanity. These grounds are also generally referred to as marital misconduct.

COMPLAINT

Papers filed with a court clerk by the plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit by setting out facts and legal claims (usually called causes of action). In some states a... (more...)
Papers filed with a court clerk by the plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit by setting out facts and legal claims (usually called causes of action). In some states and in some types of legal actions, such as divorce, complaints are called petitions and the person filing is called the petitioner. To complete the initial stage of a lawsuit, the plaintiff's complaint must be served on the defendant, who then has the opportunity to respond by filing an answer. In practice, few lawyers prepare complaints from scratch. Instead they use -- and sometimes modify -- pre-drafted complaints widely available in form books.

IN CAMERA

Latin for 'in chambers.' A legal proceeding is 'in camera' when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from t... (more...)
Latin for 'in chambers.' A legal proceeding is 'in camera' when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from the courtroom. Proceedings are often held in camera to protect victims and witnesses from public exposure, especially if the victim or witness is a child. There is still, however, a record made of the proceeding, typically by a court stenographer. The judge may decide to seal this record if the material is extremely sensitive or likely to prejudice one side or the other.

CONNIVANCE

A situation set up so that another person commits a wrongdoing. For example, a husband who invites his wife's lover along on vacation may have connived her adul... (more...)
A situation set up so that another person commits a wrongdoing. For example, a husband who invites his wife's lover along on vacation may have connived her adultery, and if he tried to divorce her for her behavior, she could assert his connivance as a defense.

COMPARABLE RECTITUDE

A doctrine that grants the spouse least at fault a divorce when both spouses have shown grounds for divorce. It is a response to an old common-law rule that pre... (more...)
A doctrine that grants the spouse least at fault a divorce when both spouses have shown grounds for divorce. It is a response to an old common-law rule that prevented a divorce when both spouses were at fault.

CONDONATION

One person's approval of another's activities, constituting a defense to a fault divorce. For example, if a wife did not object to her husband's adultery and la... (more...)
One person's approval of another's activities, constituting a defense to a fault divorce. For example, if a wife did not object to her husband's adultery and later tries to use it as grounds for a divorce, he could argue that she had condoned his behavior and could perhaps prevent her from divorcing him on these grounds.

PREMARITAL AGREEMENT

An agreement made by a couple before marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property, and sometim... (more...)
An agreement made by a couple before marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property, and sometimes whether alimony will be paid if the couple later divorces. Courts usually honor premarital agreements unless one person shows that the agreement was likely to promote divorce, was written with the intention of divorcing or was entered into unfairly. A premarital agreement may also be known as a 'prenuptial agreement.'

COMMUNITY PROPERTY

A method for defining the ownership of property acquired during marriage, in which all earnings during marriage and all property acquired with those earnings ar... (more...)
A method for defining the ownership of property acquired during marriage, in which all earnings during marriage and all property acquired with those earnings are considered community property and all debts incurred during marriage are community property debts. Community property laws exist in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Compare equitable distribution and separate property.

CASE

A term that most often refers to a lawsuit -- for example, 'I filed my small claims case.' 'Case' also refers to a written decision by a judge -- or for an appe... (more...)
A term that most often refers to a lawsuit -- for example, 'I filed my small claims case.' 'Case' also refers to a written decision by a judge -- or for an appellate case, a panel of judges. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion is commonly referred to as the Roe v. Wade case. Finally, the term also describes the evidence a party submits in support of her position -- for example, 'I have made my case' or ''My case-in-chief' has been completed.'

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Carpenter v. Carpenter

... Almost twenty years after the entry of a judgment of divorce nisi that provided that the parties' "marital property shall be divided with formula advanced by [Stanley R. Carpenter (husband)]," Patricia E. Carpenter (wife) filed a postdivorce complaint pursuant to GL c. 208, § 34 ...

Wooters v. Wooters

... KATZMANN, J. Can the exercise of stock options be considered as part of gross annual income under a divorce judgment? We consider this question in the context of an appeal from a contempt order. ... [1] Paragraph one (1) of the divorce judgment provided, in relevant part: ...

Vorontsova v. Waronzov

... GRAHAM, J. We are asked to decide whether a judge of the Probate and Family Court erred by failing to recognize, under principles of comity, a Ukrainian divorce certificate purporting to divorce the parties, Svitlana Vorontsova (wife) and Jaroslav Waronzov (husband). ...