Common Terms

Affidavit

A written statement of fact that is sworn to and notarized.


Affirmative Relief

Relief, benefit, or compensation which may be due and granted to a party.

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Agreement

An oral or written meeting of the minds. In some cases it may be presented to a judge and therefore made into an order of the court.

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Appeal

A formal request to a higher court to review the ruling made in a lower trial court.

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Appellate Court

A court that hears cases previously decided on by a trial court to determine if the trial court made the correct decision.

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Arbitration

A court-like process where each party presents their issues to an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator, and requests that the arbitrator make a final binding decision.

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Bankruptcy

A legal proceeding to obtain relief from the obligation to pay debt. These actions must be filed in federal court and the results may include the debtor getting extra time to pay or being discharged of the debt.

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Child Support

A court-ordered payment by one parent for the expenses incurred in raising his or her child. Support is usually paid to the custodial parent and is for food, housing, education, clothing and other necessary expenses.

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Child Support Guidelines

The statutory rules used by the court to determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid by the parents based upon their gross income (includes wages, salaries, interest, dividend and investment income).

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 Claim

A request or demand made of another for money or property.

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COBRA

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), passed by Congress in 1986. Along with many other provisions, this law gives some people who lose health benefits the right to continue those benefits for a limited time. To qualify, individuals must have lost their benefits in certain circumstances (including divorce or job loss) and they may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage. For more information, see the COBRA information page at the Department of Labor.

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Compensatory Support

An amount of spousal support, determined by a judge, intended to compensate one spouse for supporting the other’s education, career or earning ability.

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Contempt of Court

A determination by the court that a party failed to comply with a judgment, court order, or decree.

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Contested

Issues that have not been resolved by an agreement of the parties.

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Court Order

A court’s written ruling defining the parties' rights and responsibilities regarding the subject of the order. A court order may be drafted by an attorney and signed by a judge.

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Cross-Examination

An interrogation of the other party or their witnesses at trial to elicit the credibility and weakness of his or her testimony. The scope of cross-examination questions are limited to the topics that were asked during the preceding direct examination; new issues may not be introduced and asked of the witness on cross-examination.

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Custody

An order granted by the court establishing who has legal authority to make decisions about the child.

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Custody Study

A study performed by a court-appointed examiner, usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker, to make a recommendation to the court as to the appropriate custody and parenting time arrangements.

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Default Order

An order entered by the court for failure to appear or respond to a court proceeding.

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Deposition

The process of questioning a witness under oath to obtain the witness' position. A deposition usually takes place in a law office, with the attorneys, their clients, witnesses and a court reporter are present.

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Direct Examination

The questioning of a witness at trial by the party who called him or her for the purpose of eliciting testimony and/or evidence.

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Discovery

The pre-trial process of gathering information from the opposing side to determine their version of the facts.

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Due Diligence

An act of examining the financial assets and liabilities of the opposing party to confirm the accuracy of information.

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Elective Share

A proportion of an estate which the surviving spouse of the deceased may claim in place of what they were left in the decedent's will. It may also be called a widow's share, statutory share, or forced share.

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Ex Parte

A term derived from the Latin expression "from the part," which refers to situations where one party requests action from the court without the other party being present. Ex parte requests are generally only allowed for procedural matters or for temporary or emergency relief.

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Expert Witness

An individual retained for the purposes of providing evidence to the court. An expert witness is presumed to have specialized knowledge in a particular subject above and beyond the average person due to his or her training, education, or experience.

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FAPA

An acronym for the “Family Abuse Prevention Act." FAPA allows a person who has been abused to obtain a physical restraining order against a spouse, a live-in partner, or a relative by blood or marriage.

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Fee Agreement

An agreement or contract between a client and an attorney that sets out the nature and scope of the contract services between them.

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Financial Restraining Order

An order signed by the court prohibiting either party from selling assets or incurring additional debt while a case is pending.

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Financial Statement

A document that states assets and liabilities of the business or the individual who is making the report.

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Garnishment

A process provided by statute that allows a person to collect on a specific type of obligation by withdrawing an amount from the property or income of another.

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General Judgment

A court’s order and/or money award resolving all outstanding issues of the case.

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Hearing

A short trial to decide temporary issues before the final trial takes place. Each party has the opportunity to present evidence.

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Injunction

A court order forbidding someone from doing a certain act that is likely to cause injury or property loss to another party.

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Judgment of Dissolution

The final court order ending the marriage.

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Legal Separation

A court order that divides a couple's assets and liabilities and assesses the level of support owed, but does not terminate the marriage.

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Limited Judgment

A court order or money award that is entered at some stage before the court's final ruling. Limited judgments allow the court to dispose of one or more of the case's issues at an earlier stage. The court is then free to focus on the remaining issues, which will be resolved in the general judgment.

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Lis Pendens

A legal document filed in the county where real property (land) is located to give notice that a legal action against that property is pending.

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Marital Asset

An asset acquired during the marriage that is assumed to have been acquired by both spouses equally unless proven otherwise.

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Marital Property

All assets owned by the parties at the time of divorce regardless of title or date of acquisition.

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Mediation

A process by which parties bring an issue or issues before a neutral third party (the mediator), whose role is to facilitate settlement of the issues. A mediator has no power to force settlement of the issues.

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Memorandum

A written document to the court outlining the issues at a hearing or trial with supporting case law and facts.

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Modification

An order granting a change in the final order as to custody, visitation, child support, and/or spousal support. The property division of a final court order cannot be modified.

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Money Award

An order of the court requiring the payment of money.

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Motion

A written or oral request that the court issue a ruling or an order on a legal matter.

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No Fault Divorce

A divorce in which neither party needs to prove wrongdoing by the other. In Oregon, neither party needs to prove “fault” for the court to order the marriage dissolved.

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Non-joint Children

The children of one party only, not born to or adopted by the other spouse in the proceedings (e.g. children from a prior relationship).

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Parenting Plan

A document that is either filed after the parties have reached an agreement or after they are ordered to do so by the court. The Parenting Plan sets forth the schedule for each parent’s time with the children. It may also include guidelines as to how parenting time is to be conducted and the rights and responsibilities of parents in relation to the children.

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Parenting Time Schedule (formerly called Visitation)

A court-approved schedule for the children to spend time with both parents. The Parenting Time Schedule typically includes weekly and holiday schedules, vacations, birthdays, and other important dates, and states how the time will be shared. See the definition for Parenting Plan, above.

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Parenting Time Study

An evaluation, usually done by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker, that makes a recommendation to the parties and/or the court as to the appropriate parenting time schedule for that particular family.

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Pendente Lite

A temporary order that lasts until the divorce is final. A pendente lite order generally addresses who may live in the home, the schedule for the children, and temporary child or spousal support.

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Petition

A written application for particular relief from the court.

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Petitioner

A person who initially asks the court for relief through a petition.

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Pre-Trial Status

A conference between the attorneys and the judge, prior to trial, to discuss the status of the case and the potential for settlement. It may be done either in person or by phone.

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Privilege

A statutory right to speak to another individual in which your conversation is deemed to be protected. This privilege is limited, such as attorney/client privilege, and has specific requirements and exceptions.

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Protective Order for Restraint (Status Quo Order)

An order signed by the court that preserves the status quo of children with respect to their daily activities. This order may also limit the parents from removing children from the State of Oregon.

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Process Server

A person 18 years of age or older, who is not a party to the action, whose job it is to serve legal papers on another individual.

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Property Settlement

Division of property in a dissolution or legal separation. This division may be agreed to and affirmed by the court, or the court may order it after a contested hearing.

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Property Valuation

The value placed upon a piece of property, either real or personal. The court’s finding of the value is the ultimate decision. Synonymous with "appraisal."

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Respondent

The person against whom an action is filed.

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Response

The pleading filed in answer to the allegations of a petition.

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Restraining Order

A court order forbidding one or more parties from particular acts, especially harassing, threatening, contacting or dissipating the property of another specified person.

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Retainer

A fee paid to an attorney in advance, in exchange for services to be specified later.

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Served

A person who has been served has received legal documents. There are specified rules for service, laid out by statue in the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure.

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Settlement

An agreed-upon resolution of disputed issues.

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Settlement Agreement

A settlement reduced to a written document. A settlement must generally be reduced to an order or judgment and signed by a judge for it to be binding on the parties.

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Show Cause

A court order requiring one side to appear before the court and explain why the court should not take a proposed course of action, for example, modifying parenting time.

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Spousal Maintenance

An amount of spousal support, determined by a judge, intended to maintain for the supported spouse a standard of living similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage.

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Spousal Support

An amount of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse during separation or after the parties are divorced. Oregon statutes sets out the basis for such payments.

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Statutes

The written laws of a state. In Oregon they are called the Oregon Revised Statutes, or ORS.

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Status Quo Order

A court order that seeks to prevent harm by banning either party from taking action that would change existing conditions until the dispute is resolved. An example is a status quo order that prevents parents from removing a child from the home until a custody order is finalized.

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Stipulated judgment

An agreement between both parties regarding the outstanding dispute, which receives the sanction of the court and thus becomes judgment of the court.

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Stipulation

A formal agreement between the parties, or the attorneys representing the parties, about matters of fact or procedure relating to the outstanding dispute.

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Subpoena

A command to appear at a certain time and place either to give testimony or to bring documents.

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Summons

A written notification to the respondent that legal action is being taken against him or her. A summons requires the respondent to appear within a specific period of time to answer the allegations of the petition.

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Supplemental Judgment

A court order and/or money award that is entered after a general judgment and that affects a substantial right of one or both parties.

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Testimony

Statements made under oath by a witness or a party in a court hearing or deposition.

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Transitional Support

An amount of spousal support intended to assist the supported spouse in re-entering the work force. Funds can be used for education or retraining.

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Trial

A process by which the parties present evidence and witness testimony before a judge for the purpose of having the court make a determination.