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Words You Need to Know

Glossary of Terms

Because your path to freedom involves legal processes, you will hear a lot of new words, as well as familiar words being used in new ways.

Use this list to help you understand some of the key terms that will be used during the process.

Remember to ask questions. Whenever there are terms or parts of the process you don’t understand, ask someone to explain it to you.

Adjudication

The entry of a decree or an order by a court. The legal process of resolving a dispute.

Alimony

Money or other financial support awarded to a spouse in a divorce action for his or her separate support. lt is usually awarded only where one spouse has been dependent on the other or has less earning power than the other and for a temporary period of time. Also called spousal support.

Annulment

A court declaration that a marriage is invalid or nonexistent. Courts annul marriages where fraud bigamy, impotence, or other serious problem has occurred. It means that the marriage never occurred legally. Church annulments are not the same as legal annulments.

Appeal

Process of going to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court.

Arraignment

The initial court proceeding, in which the state formally charges the defendant with a crime, and in which the defendant usually pleads guilty or not guilty.

Arrest

The initial step in the criminal justice process, in which the state deprives a suspect of her freedom due to alleged violations of criminal law.

Assault

A violent physical or verbal attack.

Assess

To figure out a sum of money and charge it to another.

Assignment

To award a debt or benefits to another person. For example, a husband who does not pay child support can be forced to assign his wages to the court for his children.

Asylum

The granting of protection against return to a refugee; can lead to lawful permanent resident status and eventually to citizenship.

Attorney

Legal advocate who is licensed to practice law in the state you are going to court in. Attorneys and lawyers are the same; these terms are used interchangeably.

Attorney general -- (AG)

Head of the state agency responsible for prosecuting violations of state laws. The AG's office is the State's law firm for civil matters. The AG's represent the State, either defending the State, or bringing lawsuits on behalf of the State.

Adjudication

The entry of a decree or an order by a court. The legal process of resolving a dispute.

Alimony

Money or other financial support awarded to a spouse in a divorce action for his or her separate support. lt is usually awarded only where one spouse has been dependent on the other or has less earning power than the other and for a temporary period of time. Also called spousal support.

Annulment

A court declaration that a marriage is invalid or nonexistent. Courts annul marriages where fraud bigamy, impotence, or other serious problem has occurred. It means that the marriage never occurred legally. Church annulments are not the same as legal annulments.