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Nebraskans for Family - Dictionary and Glossary of Legal Terms

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Dictionary and Glossary of Legal Terms

If you can't find the term you are looking for in the glossary, please enter it in the box above and search the definition database.


A dispute taken to court to be settled. Same as "case," "suit" and "lawsuit" when used in the courtroom context.

To make a final decision; to give a judgment or a decree.

Evidence that is properly introduced in a trial.

Adversary System
Method used in the courts of the United States to settle legal disputes. Both parties in the case tell their story to the judge and/or jury for resolution.

Someone who makes and signs an affidavit.

A written statement of fact, signed and sworn to in front of a notary or a person who has the right to administer an oath.

To uphold a decision made by a lower court.

Age of Majority
Age at which the duty of support terminates. (Currently age 19 in Nebraska.

See Spousal Maintenance in this Glossary

Statements against one party which the other party is prepared to prove.

Alleged Father (Putative Father)
A person who has been named as the father of a child born out of wedlock, but for whom paternity has not yet been established.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

A process to resolve a dispute in lieu of traditional litigation e.g. mediation, arbitration or settlement conferences.

Written response in a civil case; in it the defendant admits or denies the allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint and states any defenses that apply.

A request made to a higher court to reverse or modify a decision made by a lower court.

By coming into court, a defendant agrees to abide by the jurisdiction of the court; gives to the court an address to which the court can mail notices of hearings and other court documents; and a document identifying someone who is representing another. An attorney files a Notice of Appearance, making it known to the court that she or he is representing a specific individual.

The person/party appealing the judgment or decision of a court.

Appellate Court
A court having jurisdiction (authority) to hear appeals.

The party against whom the appeal is taken.

An amount of money that is overdue; usually this refers to the amount of child support that has been ordered but has not been paid on time.

Arrearage/Arrears Judgment
A written judicial determination of the amount of support past due for a specific period of time.

Assignment of Rights
An eligibility requirement for Public Assistance whereby the applicant/recipient must assign to the state all rights to support he or she may have in their own behalf or on behalf of a dependent child.

One who is admitted to the State Bar of Nebraska and who may represent clients in legal proceedings. Also called lawyers or counsel.
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Courtroom attendant responsible for keeping order in the courtroom, supervising the jury, and scheduling matters to be heard.

The seat where a judge sits in court.

Biological Father
The man who fathers a child by impregnating the mother.

Written statement explaining facts of a case and laws that apply.

Burden of Proof
The obligation placed on one of the parties in a dispute to prove their allegations in order to obtain relief from the court.
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Lawsuit, suit or action being resolved through the court system.

Case Law
Law composed of previous written decisions of appellate courts.

Case Number
A number assigned by the court to identify your specific case.

Certified Copy
A copy of a paper which has been signed and certified as a true copy by the officer in whose custody the original is entrusted.

Private offices of a judge or justice.

Child Support
An amount of money that a parent must pay to another parent to contribute to the living expenses of a child.

Child Support Guidelines
Standards adopted by the Nebraska Supreme Court to guide parents and the courts when determining child support obligations.

Child Support Order
A written order from the court that states: which parent must pay child support; which parent will receive child support; the amount of child support payment; how often the payment must be made.

Child Support Worksheet
A document, used to enter financial information and calculate the amount of child support according to the Child Support Guidelines.

Civil Action or Suit
A non-criminal case concerning the claim of one individual or entity against another.

Civil Law
Area of law that deals with disputes between individuals, not involving crimes.

Legal and factual grounds for a court to grant relief.

Clerk of the Court
An appointed or elected official who is responsible for keeping records and accounts for a court and managing routine affairs.

Legal paper telling the court and the defendant what the plaintiff’s claims are. This document is filed with the court at the beginning of a case.

Conciliation Court
A branch of the District Court which provides assistance in settling disputes regarding children, and in Douglas County administers Local rule 4-3.

Conclusions of Law
The decision made by the judge by applying the law to the facts of the case.

An elected official whose primary duty is to deliver and return legal notices and documents as directed by a Justice of the Peace.

A willful disregard or disobedience of the court's order.

Contested Case
An action in which the defendant opposes the relief sought by the plaintiff.

Postponement of a court hearing.

See Lawyer or Attorney at Law in this Glossary.

A claim asserted by a defendant against the plaintiff.

Court Administrator
Person who assists the presiding judge in managing the court.

Court Reporter
A person who records courtroom proceedings or depositions in order to be able to produce a transcript of the proceeding.

Legal Custodial Parent
The parent (or parents, in joint legal custody situations) designated by the court to make major decisions regarding a child's care.

See Parental Rights and Responsibilities in this Glossary.
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The court's final decision on a case brought before it.

A failure of the defendant to file the appropriate papers within the time allowed or to appear in court during a scheduled hearing.

Default Judgment
Relief granted by a court when an opposing party fails to answer a complaint or appear for trial.

The person against whom a lawsuit is started; sometimes this person is called a respondent.

An answer to a complaint in which the defendant denies the allegations made by the plaintiff.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Agency which includes the Child Support Payment Center.

A relationship in which one depends on another for support in whole or in part.

Someone who gives a deposition.

Testimony taken orally or in writing outside of a courtroom by question and answer under oath. It may be read in court and may be admitted by the judge as evidence.

The procedures available to a party to a lawsuit to learn relevant facts which are known to other parties or witnesses, in order to enable the party to prepare for trial.

To close out a case without granting the relief sought in the complaint; a case may be dismissed by the parties or by the court.

Dissolution of Marriage
The term used in Nebraska Law for "divorce."

Child Support Enforcement
The Agency charged with the statewide administration and operation of IV-D child support programs.

DNA Testing
A way to determine the parents of a child by testing the chromosomes of each parent and child through taking a blood sample.

A written list containing brief notes of all the important acts done in court in each case. The name " docket" or " trial docket" is sometimes given to the list or calendar of cases set for trial or other hearings at a specified time and date.

Docket Number
A number that is given to each case as it is filed in the court. This number should be listed on all papers that are filed with the court.

Domestic Relations
Branch of the law that deals with families and children.

Duty of Support
The legal obligations of each parent to support minor natural or adopted unemancipated child(ren
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A status of independence of children from their parents due to age or circumstance.

Testimony of a witness, an object or written documents submitted in court regarding the facts in a case.

A document or object that is offered into evidence during a trial or hearing.

Ex Parte
Latin phrase for relief that is sought (and may be granted) without notice to the opposing party. Commonly used in obtaining an order of protection.

A legal remedy used to enforce a judgment, by which a law enforcement officer may confiscate property of the debtor. Also refers to the process of serving a civil arrest warrant.
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Filing Fee
Amount of money charged by the court when a case is started.

Findings or Findings of Fact
Rulings by a court as to what facts are true.

Full Faith & Credit
The constitutional principle which entitles a judgment of one state's court to recognition and enforcement in any other state's court.
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The person upon whom a garnishment is served. (Verb: to institute garnishment proceedings.)

A legal remedy whereby a debtor's property or money in the possession or under the control of a third person (garnishee) is withheld from the debtor and applied to the debt.

Genetic Testing
A way to determine the parents of a child by testing the chromosomes of each parent and child through taking a blood sample.

A person appointed by the court to manage the affairs of a child or incapacitated person. Note: A guardian does not have a duty of support to the child in his/her care.

Guardian Ad Litem
A person appointed by the court to represent the interests of a minor child in a divorce or parentage case. Guardians ad litem are different from attorneys in that they make a recommendation to the court about what they think is best for the child. Attorneys must tell the court what their clients (including children) want even if it is not in their best interests.
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A proceeding scheduled by the court at a particular date and time that may include presentation of evidence by the parties.

Home Study
A professional investigation of the living situation of each of the parents for the court's use in determining parental rights and responsibilities. Also done to investigate persons seeking to adopt a child.
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In Forma Pauperis
Latin phrase referring to someone who does not have the financial ability to pay for all or part of the cost of litigation. A person may seek in forma pauperis status in order not to have to pay filing fees or the cost of serving papers on the other party.

In Loco Parentis
Latin phrase referring to a person who, although not the legal or biological parent of the child, has been treated as a parent by the child and established a meaningful parental relationship over a substantial period of time.

An order of the court directing a person not to do certain things. For example an injunction in a dissolution case orders the spouses not to sell any of the community property.

Inability or lack of means to pay debts.

Interest on Support Arrearage
The annual rate of interest on support arrearages in Nebraska varies based upon the date of the Order for support is entered. A table can be found at

Written questions of one party, which are served on the other party, who must answer by written replies under oath within 30 days from the date of service.

A case which involves two or more states.

A case which involves two or more courts within a state.

Irretrievably Broken
The standard used in Nebraska by the court to decide if a divorce should be granted. It means that there is no reasonable chance that additional efforts to reconcile would succeed.

"Four D" refers to the title in the federal Social Security Act under which the Office of Child Support is reimbursed for providing service to persons who receive public assistance or who otherwise apply for their services.

IV-D Case
A case managed by the IV-D agency in which public assistance benefits are being paid for the child(ren) involved.

IV-D Agency
The entity responsible to administer the State Plan under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
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Presiding Judge: The judge who is dealing with a given case on a given day.

The findings and order of the court, set forth in a formal written document signed by the judge.

Judicial Performance Review
A process where lawyers periodically review the performance of judges appointed by the governor.

The power or authority of the court to act. The court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter or geographic area of the proceeding and the person against whom relief is sought.
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A person licensed by the State to represent people in court and give legal advice.

Legal Father
A man who is recognized by law as being a parent.

A legal claim against another person's property as security for a debt.

A generic term used to describe a party to a legal action. A litigant can be a plaintiff or a defendant.

A judicial contest which seeks a decision from the court.

Long-Arm Statute
A statute permitting a state court to exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident.
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A process in which the disputing parties use a third party to assist them in reaching a settlement of the dispute. The process is private, informal, and non-binding. The mediator has no power to impose a settlement, but rather attempts to assist the disputants in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute.

Modification Order
An order of the court that alters, changes, extends, amends, limits, or reduces an earlier order of the court.

To alter; to change; to extend; to amend; to limit; to reduce.

A request to a court for an order granting any kind of relief.
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Non-Custodial Parent (NCP)
The parent that has not been granted legal and/or physical custody of the child(ren).

Notary Public
A person who is legally authorized to administer oaths and verify that someone has completed an affidavit under oath.

A paper filed in court notifying the court and the other parties that something has been in a case
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Swearing or affirming that a statement is true. If someone makes a statement under oath and knows it is false, that person may be subjected to prosecution for perjury. Written documents as well as spoken testimony may be made under oath.

Commonly refers to the person to whom monthly support is payable.

Commonly refers to the person ordered to pay support.

Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)
The federal office established to oversee the administration of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

The reduction of a support indebtedness.

Written statement issued to report the decision of an appellate court.

Order to Show Cause/Order to Appear
A court order directing a person to appear in court and respond to a legal claim that they are in violation of an existing Court order.
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Parental Rights and Responsibilities
(Used to be known as custody) Issues for court determination in a divorce or parentage action. Physical rights and responsibilities include where the child lives and who cares for the child; legal rights and responsibilities include the right to make decisions for the child, including granting permission for medical treatment for the child, and the right to have access to the child's school and medical records.

Parenting Plan
A written document containing an agreement between parents indicating how a child will be raised and cared for after the parents separate or divorce. A written parenting plan is required in Douglas County.

Parenting Time
Once known as Visitation. The dates, times and duration that each parent (usually a non-custodial parent) spends time with the child(ren)

A person who has appeared in court in regard to an action and whose rights are subject to the court's jurisdiction.

A determination that establishes a man as the legal father of a child. Paternity must be established before a father may be entitled to parental rights, if the parents were never married.

The person who receives the child support payments for the child. See: Obligee

Payment History
A printed statement of payments received by the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center.

The person ordered by the court to make child support payments. This is usually the parent who is not living with the child. See: Obligor

A formal written request filed with the Clerk of the Court requesting the court to take action. More appropriately called a “Complaint” in dissolution cases.

Petition for Review
An application asking an appellate court to examine a ruling or decision.

Someone who brings an action, such as a complaint.

The process by which parties file things in court, including beginning a case, responding to issues in court, and counterclaims.

Pro Bono
When a lawyer takes a legal case without being paid, and without expecting payment.

Pro Per (Pro Se)
A Latin phrase meaning For oneself. A person appearing without benefit of an attorney, appearing for him/herself in court.
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Record on Appeal
Those papers, transcripts and exhibits form the trial court that are forwarded to the appellate court for review.

The redress or assistance awarded to a plaintiff or petitioner by the court.

To send back; an appellate court may remand a case to the trial court for re-trial or other action.

The party who answers a complaint in a civil case or a party against whom an appeal is brought, more appropriately referred to as a Defendant.

A party is said to "rest" or "rest its case" when it has presented all of the evidence it intends to offer.

The electoral process by which voters decide whether judges appointed by the governor will continue to serve another term in their current judicial capacity.

Return of Service
A statement that a complaint or other document has been served on a party.

Decision of an appellate court to change all or part of the decision of a lower court.
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Satisfaction of Judgment
A document indicating a judgment has been paid or otherwise is no longer due, required to be filed with the clerk of each court where the judgment has been docketed and also recorded in the office of each county recorder where the judgment has been recorded.

Separation Decree or Agreement
A document that may determine parental rights and responsibilities, parent/child contact and support without granting a divorce.

Service or Service of Process
The formal delivery of a petition, notice, or other papers to a party in a legal action as prescribed by court rule.

Settlement Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement
An agreement that is reached by the opposing parties making it unnecessary for the court to resolve the controversy.

Sheriff's Fee
The amount charged by the sheriff for serving a document to a party.

Spousal Maintenance
Support for a spouse or former spouse ordered by the court; this arrangement may be temporary or permanent.

Status/Pre-Trial Conference
A meeting at court, in which the court attempts to identify what issues are contested, what exhibits will be offered, what witnesses will be called, what evidentiary issues may arise and to schedule a trial date. No evidence is presented and no witnesses are called at these meetings.

Law enacted by the Legislature and published in the Nebraska Revised Statutes.

Statute of Limitations
Refers to the period of time within which a party must begin a legal action.

An agreement between opposing parties on any matter relating to the proceeding or trial, such as an agreement on support, parental rights and responsibilities, parent/child contact and property division on either a temporary or final basis.

An order to compel someone to come to a court or to a deposition at a certain date and time; there are penalties if that person doesn't come to court.

See Action in this Glossary.

A document directing a sheriff or other officer to notify the person named in the summons that a lawsuit has been started against him or her in court, and that he or she must file an answer to the complaint.

Supreme Court
The court of final appeal. In Nebraska, this is the Nebraska Supreme Court
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Statements made by witnesses who have taken an oath or affirmed that they will tell the truth.

Transcript/Bill of Exceptions
Official written, word-for-word record of court proceedings. Transcript pleadings from a case to be sent o the Appellate Court.

Formal presentation of facts to a court or jury in order to reach a legal decision.

Trial De Novo
A re-trial of a case by an Appellate Court.
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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. All 50 states have this law, which ensures that only one state can decide parental rights and responsibilities of a particular child.

A case in which all of the issues are resolved and agreed upon by all parties; usually the parties will file a stipulation and proposed order with the court.

Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act. All 50 have this law, which is designed to assist people to receive child support from non-custodial parents living in other states.
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A legal term meaning canceled or rescinded.

The county or other geographical place in which a legal action is heard by the court.

Formal decision of a trial jury.

Now known as Parenting Time. See Parent/Child Contact in this Glossary.

Voluntary Appearance
An appearance by one who has not yet been served with process in the case.
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Wage Assignment/Order of Assignment
A court order directing an employer or other payor to withhold money (e.g., wages, earnings, interest or trust funds, unemployment insurance benefits, etc.) owed to a support obligor for payment toward a child support obligation.

Wage Withholding
A method of paying child support. Under court order, money is withheld from the wages of a non-custodial parent, sent to the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center and then sent to the custodial parent.

The intentional and voluntary relinquishment of a known legal right.

Person who gives testimony regarding what he/she saw or heard.

A document issued by a court which compels a sheriff or other officer to do something.
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