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Glossary of Common Terms Heard Around the Courthouse

Additional terms are available at the People's Law Library Glossary Page

Terms specific to guardianship are available on the Guardianship Glossary page

Term Description
1F1J One Family, One Judge, Case assignment pertaining to family cases, implemented in 2016, that allows for the same case to be managed by the same judge through the life of the case.
Absolute Divorce The final ending of the marriage. Both parties are legally free to remarry. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Section 7-103.
Access Visitation
Affidavit A written statement made under oath
Annual Fiduciary Report Includes information about the disabled person’s or minor’s assets (calculated as the value of the assets at the beginning and end of the guardianship year), the income received, disbursements made, and changes in the values of the non-cash assets that occurred during the guardianship year
Annual Report Includes information about living arrangements, physical and mental condition, and plans for future care of the disabled person or a minor
ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution The opportunity for litigants to participate in mediation, which is a form of ADR in which a mediator assists parties in reaching a resolution prior to trial. Mediation can be ordered at any time during the pendency of any civil case, including family cases.
Annulment A court's decision that a marriage is void; it never legally existed. Annulment is available only under certain limited circumstances.
Answer A document filed after service and in response to the complaint, petition, or motion
AO – Assignment Office Department responsible for scheduling all events
Best Interest Attorney An attorney for the child, appointed by the court, whose function is to inform the court as to the best interests of the child. Formerly known as guardian ad litem.
Bifurcate Sever into two parts. In family cases custody issues are separated from property, monetary, and divorce issues. Custody issues are heard and resolved first in a separate hearing.
Child Support Guidelines Maryland has child support guidelines that must be followed in awarding child support. The guidelines provide formulas for calculating support based on the number of children in the family and the combined gross income of the adults. There is a worksheet that each side must fill out. The court will review the figures on the worksheet and apply the guidelines. There are only a few circumstances when the court can award child support higher or lower than the guidelines. See the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Sections 12-201 through 12-204.
CINA Child in Need of Assistance
Complaint The initial pleading that starts the case.
Contempt Failure to follow a court order. One side can request that the court determine that the other side is in contempt and punish him or her.
Corroborative Witness A person who testifies for you and backs up your story (for example, if you are asking the court to grant a divorce, you must bring to the hearing a witness who can corroborate your grounds for divorce).
Custody Refers to the legal arrangements regarding with whom a child will live and how decisions about the child will be made. Custody has two parts: legal and physical.
Custody - Legal Refers to how parents will make decisions about the child. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody it means that he/she alone can make major decisions for the child including, for example, medical/dental and educational decisions.
Custody - Physical Parent with whom the child lives
DCM – Differentiated Case Management Way of managing the Court's caseload. Each case is assigned to the appropriate case track that allows for the performance of pretrial tasks and allocates the appropriate level of judicial and other system resources, minimizing processing delays.
Default A party's failure to answer a complaint, motion, or petition
Defendant The person the case is brought against
Disabled person Person other than a minor who has been judged by the Court to be unable to manage his/her property and/or unable to provide for his/her daily needs
Discovery A way for getting information from the other side or other people. Discovery methods include interrogatories (written questions that one side gives the other side to complete) and depositions (a question and answer session conducted in person and recorded).
Dissolution The legal end of a marriage
Evidence Testimony of witnesses and documents that are presented to the court and considered by the court in making a decision
Family Law General term for the various actions related to marital relationships and relationships between parents and children
Fiduciary Someone who can be trusted to act in the best interest of the disabled person
Filing Giving the Clerk of Court your legal papers
Grounds for Divorce The legal basis for a divorce. The law sets out specific circumstances under which a divorce will be granted. Before the court will grant a divorce, the person seeking the divorce must prove that those conditions exist.
Inventory and Information Report Requests information about the disabled person’s or minor’s assets, such as real estate property, cash and cash equivalents, stocks, bonds, and personal property.
Judgment A court's decision
Limited Divorce Establishes certain legal responsibilities while the parties are separated but does not end the marriage. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Section 7-102.
Magistrate Hears cases like a judge. A magistrate's decision is reviewed by a judge before becoming final.
Marital Property Includes ALL property acquired during the marriage, even if it is not titled in both names, with some exceptions. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Section 8-201(e) for definition and Sections 8-203 through 8-205 for how the court treats marital property.
Mediation A process where parties meet with a neutral third person and try to resolve issues in their cases.
Merits Hearing (Trial) The final resolution of a case, heard by a Judge or Magistrate, depending on the complexity and length of the case
Minor Person who has not reached the age of 18 with the exception of minors who are placed under guardianship for the special immigration purpose; in which case age of majority will be 21 instead of 18
Motion A request to the court. Motions can be oral (in court) or written.
Pendente Lite Hearing Brief hearings held on requests for temporary relief before a case has gone to trial. Some issues covered in these hearings include child support, alimony, visitation, attorney and expert fees, and contribution to household expenses.
Petition A legal paper that starts a case
Plaintiff The person who started the case
Post Judgment All matters heard after the final resolution of a case (merits). This includes any requests to modify prior orders concerning child support, visitation, custody, alimony, etc.
Pro se/Proper Person (also called Self-Represented) Person who represents him/herself in court without an attorney
Reconciliation Married people getting back together
Resident Agent Person who resides in Maryland on whom service of process may be made in the same manner and with the effect as if it were served personally in Maryland on the nonresident guardian
Respondent Term used for the child in a juvenile proceeding
Rule 2-507 Maryland Rule governing dismissal for lack of jurisdiction or prosecution.
Scheduling Hearing Initial hearing held after all opposing parties have been served. The purpose of this hearing is to determine contested issues, order services, set dates for the case, and determine the proper track for the case.
Service Providing copies of papers being filed with the court to the other side. Detailed steps are outlined in the Service of Process Brochure
Settlement/Pre-Trial Hearing Hearing where the Family Division Magistrate attempts to settle or narrow the issues to be heard at the Custody Merits Hearing (Trial) covering property monetary and divorce issues
Settlement/Status Hearing Hearing where the Family Division Magistrate attempts to settle or narrow the issues to be heard at the Custody Merits Hearing (Trial)
SIJS Special Immigration Juvenile Status
Spouse Husband or wife
Subpoena Form issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and/or bring documents
Track Numeric category assigned to each case that drives how dates are scheduled and time standards are met
TPR Termination of Parental Rights
Uncontested Divorce When the defendant is not going to try to stop the divorce and there are no issues for the court to decide about children, money, or property
Use and Possession The right of the parent who has custody of a minor child of the marriage to remain in the family home for up to three years from the date of the divorce, under certain circumstances. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Sections 8-206 through 8-211.
Venue The county where the case is heard
Writ of Summons A form issued by the court directing a party to respond to a complaint, motion, or petition
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