Family Law Glossary

A

ABSENTEE

A person who has disappeared or whose whereabouts are unknown.


ABSOLUTE DISCHARGE

(see Discharge)


ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

(see Liability)


ACCESS

In family law cases, the right to spend time with the children on a regular basis and to receive information on the children’s health, education, and well-being.

B

BAIL

A commonly used term for a Recognizance of Bail. When a person is not released by the arresting officer, the person must be taken before a judicial officer to determine whether the person should remain in custody pending trial. The term “bail” is often used to refer to the money paid as security for the person showing up the next time he or she is required to appear in court.


BALANCE OF PROBABILITIES

(see Burden of Proof)


BANKRUPT

Insolvent and involved in a proceeding to become bankrupt or against whom a creditor has started a proceeding to put them into bankruptcy. Can be used to refer to apply to the person in this position.


BANKRUPTCY

A legal process by which an insolvent person is relieved of certain debts, usually with conditions.

C

CAS

Acronym for Children’s Aid Society.


CASE

A matter brought before the court for a decision. It includes criminal charges, applications, motions, enforcements and appeals.


CASE CONFERENCE

(see Conference)


CASE EVENT LIST

A list of cases to be heard in a particular courtroom during that day. This list may be referred to as the “docket”.

D

DAMAGES

Money claimed by, or ordered to be paid to, a person as compensation for loss or injuries.

AGGRAVATED DAMAGES

Damages designed to compensate a plaintiff for suffering intangible damages such as humiliation and distress, as a result of the defendant’s actions.

COMPENSATORY DAMAGES

Damages awarded for actual loss, in order to place the plaintiff in a position that he or she would have been in had he or she not suffered the wrong complained of.

GENERAL DAMAGES

Damages for non-monetary losses suffered by a plaintiff. These damages are not capable of exact quantification. Examples of such losses suffered include pain, suffering, and disfigurement.

NOMINAL DAMAGES

Token (i.e. small) damages awarded to redress a violation of a legal right that the law deems necessary to protect, even in the absence of actual harm.

NON-PECUNIARY DAMAGES

Damages that cannot be measured in money, but nevertheless are compensated for with money (i.e., general damages).

PECUNIARY DAMAGES

Damages that can be measured in money (i.e., special damages).

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

Damages awarded to punish a defendant for their purposely harsh, vindictive or malicious behaviour.

SPECIAL DAMAGES

Damages intended to compensate a plaintiff for a quantifiable monetary loss. Examples of such losses include: lost earnings, medical bills, and repair costs.


DANGEROUS OFFENDER

A person who is convicted of a serious personal injury offence, as provided in the Criminal Code of Canada, and who is, after an assessment, found by a court to be at high risk to re-offend and whose risk cannot be managed in the community. Dangerous offenders are sentenced to a detention in a federal prison for an indefinite period. (see also Long-term Offender)


DEBTOR

A person who owes money.


DECLARATION

An order of the court that declares the law to require or prohibit certain conduct or that named persons have rights specified in the declaration.

E

ELECTION

The making of a legal choice.

ELECTION BY THE ACCUSED

The procedure by which accused persons charged with certain criminal offences are given the choice to be tried by judge and jury or by judge alone at the Superior Court of Justice, or by a provincial judge in the Ontario Court of Justice. With certain criminal offences, the accused may elect to have a preliminary inquiry.

ELECTION BY THE CROWN

The procedure by which the Crown decides to prosecute a “hybrid” offence as a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. The major procedural difference is an indictable offence usually has a preliminary inquiry before trial.


ENDORSE

To sign a legal document or formally approve something.


ENDORSEMENT

The written decision of a judge.


ENFORCEMENT

Where one party takes measures under the law or with permission of the court to compel the other party to obey a court order.

F

FACTUM

A document in a court case in which a party sets out a concise argument, stating the facts and laws relied on.


FAMILY COURT

(see Court)


FAMILY LAW

The laws that deal with family-related issues and domestic relations including child protection, divorce, separation, custody and access, division of property, support, and adoption.


FAMILY LAW ACT

Ontario statute governing family property, child and spousal support, the matrimonial home, domestic contracts, and restraining orders.

G

GARNISHEE

A third party who owes money to a debtor, but must instead pay it to the court (or in family law cases, to the Family Responsibility Office), to the benefit of a creditor.


GARNISHMENT

A process whereby a person who has a court order for payment can demand money owed to a debtor by someone else. Most often, people garnish wages or bank accounts.


GENERAL DAMAGES

(see Damages)


GUARDIAN/GUARDIAN AD LITEM

A person given legal authority by law or court order to have custody of another person or their property or both, because they are not able to manage their own affairs.


GUILTY

  1. A verdict convicting an accused person of the crime he or she is charged with.
  2. An accused person’s plea when he or she does not contest the offence he or she is charged with.

 

H

HABEAS CORPUS

(see Prerogative Writs)


HEARING

Generic label to describe a proceeding.

DEFAULT HEARING

In family law cases, a hearing in which a payor is required to come to court to explain why payment has not been made as required by a support order.

In criminal law cases, when an accused has broken terms of their bail, the Court sets out the process for the court to order the default estreatment of bail, including recognizance.

FITNESS HEARING

The Criminal Code procedure to see if an accused is mentally fit to stand trial.

TEMPORARY CARE AND CUSTODY HEARING

In child protection cases, a hearing that may be held to determine who will have care and custody of a child who has been apprehended by the children’s aid society until a final order is made in the case.


HEARSAY EVIDENCE

(see Evidence)


HOLOGRAPH WILL

(see Will)

I

IDENTIFICATION OF CRIMINALS ACT

Federal statute that sets out the right of police to fingerprint, take photographs, and collect information on persons accused of criminal offences.


ILLEGAL

Prohibited by law.


IMPRISONMENT

(see Sentence)


IMPUTED INCOME

In family law, when a judge finds that the amount of income a parent discloses is not accurate, the judge may attribute additional income to that person for purposes of calculating child support.

J

JOINT CUSTODY

(see Custody)


JOINT LIABILITY

(see Liability)


JUDGE

The person authorized to determine legal matters in court.

DEPUTY JUDGE

A person appointed to determine small claims court matters.

PUISNE JUDGE

A judge or justice other than the chief judge or chief justice of a court.

SUPERNUMERARY JUDGE

A judge who has the option to retire, but who instead chooses to sit half of the time of a full-time judge.


JUDGMENT

A judicial decision; the determination of a court; a court’s sentence or decision on the major question in a proceeding.

DEFAULT JUDGMENT

A judgment obtained where the defendant fails to defend against the plaintiff or applicant’s claim.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

In civil or family law matters, a motion for a final order without a trial on the basis that there is no genuine issue for trial because the evidence favouring one of the parties is overwhelming.

K

KEEP THE PEACE

To prevent or avoid breaches of the peace, such as acts of violence or other acts prohibited by law.

L

LAW

Statutes, acts, regulations, rules, standards and principles that govern people. Law can also be based on court decisions.


LAW SOCIETY OF UPPER CANADA

The provincial body charged, by the legislature, with governing the legal profession and regulating the conduct of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.


LAWYER

A person licensed through the Law Society to practice law.


LEAVE

Permission of the court.

M

MANDAMUS

(see Prerogative Writs)


MARRIAGE CONTRACT

(see Domestic Contract)


MASTER

A provincially appointed judicial officer who is authorized to decide certain non-criminal matters.

CASE MANAGEMENT MASTER

Assists judges to manage civil caseloads by presiding at motions and case and settlement conferences.


MATERIAL WITNESS

(see Witness)

N

NEGLECT

In child protection cases, the failure by a parent or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional or developmental needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.


NEGLIGENCE

The failure to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to others.


NET FAMILY PROPERTY

In family law cases, the value of all property that a married spouse owns on a specified date, known as the valuation date, less (a) the spouse’s debts on the valuation date, (b) the value of property other than a matrimonial home owned by the spouse at the date of marriage, less any debts owing at that time, and (c) any excluded property.


NO CONTACT ORDER

An order forbidding a person from contacting named person(s).

O

OATH

A solemn declaration, followed by a swearing to God or an honoured deity, whereby the person promises to tell the truth.


OFFENCE

A violation of the law.

HYBRID OFFENCE

Term applied to a criminal offence which may be tried by summary conviction procedure or by indictment at the option of the prosecutor. A hybrid offence is an indictable offence until the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction. The difference is in the process followed.

INDICTABLE OFFENCE

More serious criminal offences that carry longer maximum sentences and higher fines; these offences are also subject to more complex court procedures, including the right to a preliminary hearing before a trial in the Superior Court of Justice.

QUASI-CRIMINAL OFFENCE

A non-criminal offence that carries a penalty similar to that of a criminal offence, but that is subject to less complex court procedures than are criminal offences. For example traffic and workplace safety offences.

REGULATORY OFFENCE

A non-criminal offence that regulates conduct in the public interest, such as securities regulations. Regulatory offences are often dealt with at administrative tribunals and not in a court setting.

SUMMARY CONVICTION OFFENCE

These criminal offences carry lower maximum penalties and are subject to less complex court procedures. These matters are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice.


OFFER TO SETTLE

A written document that is sent by one party to the other setting out the terms for which that party is willing to settle all or part of the case.OMISSIONThe failure to do something which it is one’s duty to do, or which a reasonable person would do.


OMISSION

The failure to do something which it is one’s duty to do, or which a reasonable person would do.

P

PARDON

A process that allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records. All information pertaining to convictions will be taken out of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and may not be disclosed.


PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT, 2000

Provincial statute that makes parents financially responsible for damages caused by their children.


PARENTING PLAN

A plan developed by parents which sets out their arrangements for the care of their children after separation. The plan can be informal or can be contained in a separation agreement or court order.


PAROLE

The early release of a prisoner from imprisonment, whereby the person is supervised and required to obey conditions.

Q

QUASH

To terminate or void something.


QUASI-CRIMINAL OFFENCE

(see Offence)


QUESTIONING

(see Examination for Discovery)


QUO WARRANTO

(see Prerogative Writs)

R

R. V. (NAME)/THE QUEEN V. (NAME)

The title of proceeding of a criminal case. The ‘R.’ stands for Regina or Rex, which are the Latin words for Queen or King. The ‘v.’ stands for versus, but it is often read aloud by using the term “and” instead.


REAL PROPERTY

(see Property)


RECIPIENT

In family law cases, a person who is entitled to receive support under an order or agreement.


RECIPROCATING JURISDICTION

In family law cases, another province, territory or country that has entered into an agreement with Ontario for the enforcement of support orders and the making or changing of support orders. Reciprocating jurisdictions are listed in a regulation under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002.

S

SEAL

An imprint affixed to a document to prove authenticity and attest to its accuracy.


SEALED

Closed to the public. If the court seals a court file or a court document filed, public access is only permitted by order of the court.


SEARCH

An examination of a person’s body or private property to find evidence, conducted by a public authority who is acting pursuant to a court order or other legal authority.


SEARCH WARRANT

(see Warrant)

T

TARIFF

A schedule of fees to be charged for various legal services.


TEMPORARY CARE AND CUSTODY HEARING

(see Hearing)


TEMPORARY ORDER

(see Order)


TESTAMENT

A legal document to take effect on the death of the person making it. (see Will)

U

UNCONTESTED

A case, or a step in a case, which is not defended by the responding party.


UNDERTAKING

  1. A promise.
  2. A form of judicial interim release that depends on a promise made.

UNDUE HARDSHIP

In family law cases, a situation where paying the required amount of child support would cause excessive financial difficulty.


UNEXECUTED WARRANT

(see Warrant)

V

VALUATION DATE

In family law cases, the date at which a married spouse’s property is valued, for the purpose of calculating net family property.


VARIATION

A change to a court order or other legal document, made on the authority of a court.


VARY

To change.


VERDICT

A judge or jury’s decision in a trial.

W

WAIVE

To abandon a right or to refrain from insisting on a right or a formality.


WARRANT

A judicial order directing a peace officer to do something such as arrest someone, search or seize something, or enforce a judicial order.

ARREST WARRANT

A document authorizing the police to arrest an individual where the court orders it.

BENCH WARRANT

An order issued by a judge to a police officer for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear, or remain in attendance, at a hearing or trial. Bench warrants are a form of arrest warrants.

DISCRETIONARY BENCH WARRANT

In circumstances where a person does not appear in court, the court may extend a courtesy by issuing a bench warrant “with discretion”. The matter is adjourned to a future date and, if the person appears at that time, the warrant is cancelled.

EXECUTED WARRANT

A warrant that has been carried out.

SEARCH WARRANT

An order issued by a justice under statutory powers, authorizing a named person to enter a specified place to search for and seize specified property which will provide evidence of the actual or intended commission of an offence.

UNEXECUTED WARRANT

A warrant that has not been carried out.

WARRANT OF COMMITTAL

An order requiring that a party be committed to prison for a specified period of time.

WARRANT FOR WITNESS

A document requiring that police arrest a person who has failed to appear as a witness as ordered.


WILL

Directions made in legal form where a person instructs how his or her estate should be administered and distributed after death. It takes effect upon a person’s death.

HOLOGRAPH WILL

A will written wholly in the handwriting of the person making it.


WITHDRAWAL

Discontinuing or abandoning a case or part of a case.

Y

YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT (YOA)

Federal statute that was replaced by the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003.


YOUNG PERSON

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a person between the ages 12 and 17 inclusive.


YOUTH COURT (YOUTH JUSTICE COURT)

Specially designated courts that hear Youth Criminal Justice Act cases.


YOUTH CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT (YCJA)

Federal statute that sets out the procedures for criminal charges and sentences against persons under 18.


YOUTH CUSTODY FACILITY

Specially designated places under the Youth Criminal Justice Act for young persons to be held in custody.