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
certified copy
A copy of a document issued by a court or government agency guaranteed to be a true and exact copy of the original. Many agencies and institutions require certified copies of legal documents before permitting certain transactions. For example, a certified copy of a death certificate is required before a bank will release the funds in a deceased person's payable-on-death account to the person who has inherited them.
challenge for cause
A party's request that the judge dismiss a potential juror from serving on a trial jury by providing a valid legal reason why he shouldn't serve. Potential bias is a common reason potential jurors are challenged for cause -- for example, the potential juror is a relative of a party or one of the lawyers, or admits to a prejudice against one party's race or religion. Judges can also dismiss a potential juror for cause. There is no limit on the number of successful challenges for cause. Compare peremptory challenges.
chambers
A fancy word for a judge's office. Trial court judges often schedule pre-trial settlement conferences and other informal meetings in chambers.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy
The reorganization bankruptcy for consumers, in which you partially or fully repay your debts. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep your property and use your income to pay all or a portion of the debts over three to five years. The minimum amount you must pay is roughly equal to the value of your nonexempt property. In addition, you must pledge your disposable net income -- after subtracting reasonable expenses -- for the period during which you are making payments. At the end of the three-to five-year period, the balance of what you owe on most debts is erased.
Chapter 13 plan
A document filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in which the debtor shows how all of his or her disposable income will be used over a three- to five-year period to pay all mandatory debts -- for example, back child support, taxes, and mortgage arrearages -- as well as some or all unsecured, nonpriority debts, such as medical and credit card bills.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy
The most familiar type of bankruptcy, in which many or all of your debts are wiped out completely in exchange for giving up your nonexempt property. Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes from three to six months, costs about $200, and commonly requires only one trip to the courthouse.
charge
A formal accusation of criminal activity. The prosecuting attorney decides on the charges, after reviewing police reports, witness statements and any other evidence of wrongdoing. Formal charges are announced at an arrested person's arraignment.
charitable trust
Any trust designed to make a substantial gift to a charity and also achieve income and estate tax savings for the person who creates the trust (the grantor).
child
(1) A son or daughter of any age, sometimes including biological offspring, unborn children, adopted children, stepchildren, foster children and children born outside of marriage. (2) A person under an age specified by law, often 14 or 16. For example, state law may require a person to be over the age of 14 to make a valid will, or may define the crime of statutory rape as sex with a person under the age of 16. In this sense, a child can be distinguished from a minor, who is a person under the age of 18 in most states. A person below the specified legal age who is married is often considered an adult rather than a child. See also emancipation.
child support
The entitlement of all children to be supported by their parents until the children reach the age of majority or become emancipated -- usually by marriage, by entry into the armed forces or by living independently. Many states also impose child support obligations on parents for a year or two beyond this point if the child is a full-time student. If the parents are living separately, they each must still support the children. Typically, the parent who has custody meets his or her support obligation through taking care of the child every day, while the other parent must make payments to the custodial parent on behalf of the child -- usually cash but sometimes other kinds of contributions. When parents divorce, the court almost always orders the non-custodial parent to pay the custodial parent an amount of child support fixed by state law. Sometimes, however, if the parents share physical custody more or less equally, the court will order the higher-income parent to make payments to the lower-income parent.
circuit court
The name used for the principal trial court in many states. In the federal system, appellate courts are organized into thirteen circuits. Eleven of these cover different geographical areas of the country -- for example, the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The remaining circuits are the District of Columbia Circuit and the Federal Circuit, (which hears patent, customs and other specialized cases based on subject matter). The term derives from an age before mechanized transit, when judges and lawyers rode "the circuit" of their territory to hold court in various places.
circumstantial evidence
Evidence that proves a fact by means of an inference. For example, from the evidence that a person was seen running away from the scene of a crime, a judge or jury may infer that the person committed the crime.
civil
Noncriminal. See civil case.
civil case
A noncriminal lawsuit, usually involving private property rights. For example, lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence and copyright violations are just a few of the many hundreds of varieties of civil lawsuits.
civil procedure
The rules used to handle a civil case from the time the initial complaint is filed through pretrial discovery, the trial itself and any subsequent appeal. Each state adopts its own rules of civil procedure (often set out in a separate Code of Civil Procedure), but many are influenced by or modeled on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.