Commonly Used Words In Family Court

Legal Lifelines

Adjournment: To put off the court proceedings to another day.

Adoption:   A process to take a child of another as one’s own.

Contempt: The failure to obey an order of the Court.

Custodial Parent: The parent who has physical custody of a child.

Custody: In relation to children, the right of a parent to care, keep, direct, and make decisions regarding a child’s care and control, education, health, and religion.

Enforcement: A procedure of making a person obey a court order, such as a support order.

Guardianship: A person who has the legal right to take care of another person.

Hearing Examiner: A person employed by the Court, who is not a Judge, that will hear and investigate a case and make recommendations to the Judge.

Home Study: An investigation by the Family Court in a custody matter to determine the fitness of a home for a child.

Income Execution/Wage Deduction: Money taken directly from the paycheck of a person responsible for paying child support. It is used when a support order is in place and the responsible person has not been making payments voluntarily. Money can also be deducted from wages voluntarily as a matter of convenience.

Law Guardian: An attorney appointed by the Family Court in custody proceedings to represent the interests of a minor child.

Maintenance: The duty of a spouse to provide necessities for the other spouse.

Minor: In support cases and public assistance matters, someone under the age of 21. For all other purposes, someone under the age of 18.

Modification: A procedure to change an existing order from Family Court. It is most common when a person paying or receiving support wants to change the amount. A modification can also be used to change the terms of a visitation order.

Natural Parents: The parents responsible for giving birth to a child.

Order of Protection: A court order telling one person, usually a spouse, to stay away from another person.

Paternity: A procedure to establish the biological father of a child.

Petitioner: The person who starts an action in Court.

Psychologicals: Tests ordered by Family Court in custody matters to determine the fitness of parents to care for a child.

Putative Father: The alleged father of a child.

Respondent: The person being summoned into Court.

Support: The duty of a parent to provide necessities for a child.

Violation: The act of disobeying an order of the Court.

Visitation: An order of the Court allowing a parent to see their child.

This Lifeline contains general information, and does not constitute individual legal advice about your situation. You should consult with an attorney for individual legal advice about your situation and to find out how this information applies to your situation. To see if you qualify for free legal services, call the Legal Aid office nearest you.