Ottawa County Legal Self-Help Center

Legal Terms Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X, Y, Z

A

ABATE
To lessen or make less; to delay or suspend a court case
ABROGATE
To cancel or repeal a law, rule, or court order.
ABSTRACT OF CONVICTION
This term usually describes the form that the courts prepare and send to the Michigan Department of State listing traffic/moving violations or other "reportable offenses" like drug crimes.
ABSTRACT OF RECORD
A shortened record or part of a record.
ABSTRACT OF TITLE
A shortened history of the chain of title (or all the people who owned the land) of land.
ACCESSORY
A person who helps another person commit a crime, before or after the crime. The person must know that the other is planning to commit the crime and help them on purpose.
ACCOMPLICE
A partner in crime; a person who helps commit a crime but who doesn't actually do the act that is the crime.
ACCRUAL
The total amount of child support payments that a parent owes.
ACQUIT
To find not guilty and set free.
ACQUITTAL
The legal decision in a criminal case that the person charged with the crime is not guilty.
ACTION
A legal dispute brought before a court; when one person sues another to defend or enforce a right; to stop something bad from happening or fix something; to punish someone for a crime. An "action" is also referred to as a "case," "lawsuit," "cause of action," or "cause."
ACTIVE CASE
A pending case; one that is not finished.
AD VALOREM
A Latin phrase that means "according to the value." For example, an ad valorem tax on a car is one where the amount of tax depends on the car's value.
ADDITUR
The power of the trial court to increase the amount of damages the jury awarded instead of granting a new trial.
ADJOURN
To delay or put off a case or court session.
ADJOURNMENT
The delaying or putting off of a case or court session until another time.
ADJUDICATE
To act as a judge; to hear and decide a case.
ADJUDICATION
Giving a judgment or final decision in a case or the judgment given. In a juvenile delinquency case, it is the same as a verdict (of guilty or not guilty).
ADOPTION
The act by which someone else's biological child is made the legal child of another. The way people become parent and child when they are not related by blood.
ADULT
Someone who is no longer a minor. In criminal cases, an adult is someone age 17 or older. See MCL 712A.2(a). In most other proceedings, an adult is someone age 18 or older. See MCL 700.8(5). See also MINOR.
ADR
ADVERSE POSSESSION
A way to become the owner of land without buying it but by possessing it for the required time.
AFFIANT
A person who makes an affidavit.
AFFIDAVIT
A written statement in which a person swears (under oath or affirmation) that certain facts are true. It must be signed in front of someone who is legally able to give the oath, like a notary public.
AFFINITY
A relationship because of marriage and not blood; For example, the relationship between a wife and her husband"s family is one of affinity.
AFFIRM
To make a solemn statement. Used instead of an oath.
AFFIRMATION
A solemn and formal declaration that a statement is true. Sometimes a person may make an affirmation instead of taking an oath.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE
When a defendant has an excuse why her or she is not guilty of the crime or is not at fault in a civil case. The defendant must raise the defense in the answer to the civil complaint or before trial in a criminal case.
AGENT
Someone who has the authority to act for another person. The other person is known as the "principal."
ALIBI
A defendant's claim that he or she was somewhere else when the crime happened.
ALIMONY
Money the court orders paid to a spouse or ex-spouse. Michigan courts call it SPOUSAL SUPPORT.
ALLEGATION
A party's statement in a pleading (certain papers filed with the court) that has not been proved true or false, but is what the party intends to prove.
ALLEGE
To say that something is true without proof that it is
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR)
Ways to resolve disputes or arguments without going to court. These include Arbitration, Conciliation, and Mediation. See ARBITRATION, CONCILIATION, MEDIATION.
AMEND
To add or change a claim that has been filed in court.
ANCILLARY ADMINISTRATION
The formal process of closing an estate in another state or country where the person who died owned property but did not live.
ANCILLARY SUIT
A lawsuit growing out of and in addition to another suit. For example, a lawsuit to enforce a judgment (collect the money) is ancillary to the original lawsuit.
ANNOTATIONS
Brief summaries of cases saying what statutes mean. These summaries are found in books called annotated compilations of statutes like Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated. See MICHIGAN COMPILED LAWS ANNOTATED, MICHIGAN STATUTES ANNOTATED.
ANNUL
To cancel or make of no effect. To annul a judgment or court case is to take away its effect.
ANNULMENT
A court order that says that a marriage or other agreement was invalid or not legal.
ANSWER
The legal paper filed with the court in which the defendant responds to the claims of the plaintiff in a lawsuit.
ANTENUPTIAL
Made or done before marriage. Usually an agreement how the married couple will divide their property if one of them dies or they get divorced. It's also called a prenuptial agreement.
APPEAL
A request to a higher court to change the decision of a lower court. An appeal can be by application or leave - where the higher court must agree to hear the case before the appeal may be filed - or by right - where permission does not first have to be obtained.
APPEARANCE
1. Going to court as a party to a lawsuit, in person or through an attorney.
2. The legal paper, filed by a lawyer, that tells the court and other parties that the lawyer works for a party to a lawsuit.
APPELLANT
In a case on appeal, the party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court.
APPELLATE COURT
A court which reviews lower court decisions, generally using only the record of the lower court. A party may appeal a district court case to the circuit court. Cases from the circuit court are appealed to the Court of Appeals. Cases from the probate court are appealed to either the circuit court or the Court of Appeals depending upon the type of case. A limited number of cases may also be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
APPELLEE
In a case on appeal, the party who did not appeal the lower court's decision.
APPLICATION
Placing a request or petition before the court.
ARBITRATION
A way to resolve a dispute outside of court. An arbitrator (someone who is not involved in the case) looks at the evidence, hears the arguments, and makes a decision that the parties must follow.
ARRAIGN
To bring a person charged with a crime before the court to hear the charges against him or her. It begins a criminal case. See ARRAIGNMENT.
ARRAIGNMENT
The pretrial court hearing where the person accused of a crime is arraigned. The person is taken to court where the judge explains the crimes with which he or she is charged and asks the person to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty (or sometimes, no contest or nolo contendre). The judge may also appoint an attorney and may set bail.
ARREARAGE
Money which is overdue and unpaid; usually child support. A parent that is behind in paying child support has arrearages and is "in arrears."
ARREST WARRANT
A court order telling the police to arrest the person named in the order.
ASSETS
Generally, any property a person or corporation owns that may be used to pay debts. In probate court, all of the property in the estate that the personal representative may use to pay debts and give to the people who are supposed to get it.
ASSIGNMENT
1. Assignment of Cases: the way a court assigns cases to the judges of the court.
2. Assignment of Counsel: when a judge assigns a lawyer to work for a criminal defendant who cannot afford to hire one.
3. A transfer of property (land or personal property) to another person.
ASSIGNMENT OF SUPPORT RIGHTS
If a person gets public assistance (money from the government, for example, FIP), he or she must agree to give the state the right to any child support he or she may get in the future. The child support helps the state pay for the money or benefits it gives.
ATTACHMENT
1. A paper attached to court filings or papers to give more information
2. Taking someone's property by court order to collect a judgment.
ATTEST, ATTESTATION
Signing as a witness to the signing of a written document, usually a will.
ATTORNEY
A lawyer; a person who is licensed to practice law and may act for another person in legal things.
ATTORNEY IN FACT
A person, not always a lawyer, named in a document called a "power of attorney," who acts for another person. An attorney in fact can sign documents and conduct business. See POWER OF ATTORNEY.
ATTORNEY OF RECORD
The lawyer whose name is listed in the case record (or file) as working for one of the people in the case.
Legal Self Help Center Logo

CONTACT US

Grand Haven

  • 616-846-8141
  • 414 Washington Avenue
    Grand Haven, MI 49417
    (ATM on 2nd Floor)
  • Mon-Thurs:
    8:30am-4:30pm
    Fri: 8:30am-12:30pm

Holland

  • 85 West 8th St
    Holland, MI 49423
  • Mon 8:30am-12:30pm

West Olive

  • Probate Court/Juvenile Services Building
    12120 Fillmore St
    W. Olive, MI 49460
  • Temporarily Unavailable

ad