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
criminal law
Laws written by Congress and state legislators that make certain behavior illegal and punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. By contrast, civil laws are not punishable by imprisonment. In order to be found guilty of a criminal law, the prosecution must show that the defendant intended to act as he did; in civil law, you may sometimes be responsible for your actions even though you did not intend the consequences. For example, civil law makes you financially responsible for a car accident you caused but didn't intend.
cross-claim
See cross-complaint.
cross-complaint
Sometimes called a cross-claim, legal paperwork that a defendant files to initiate her own lawsuit against the original plaintiff, a co-defendant or someone who is not yet a party to the lawsuit. A cross-complaint must concern the same events that gave rise to the original lawsuit. For example, a defendant accused of causing an injury when she failed to stop at a red light might cross-complain against the mechanic who recently repaired her car, claiming that his negligence resulted in the brakes failing and, hence, that the accident was his fault. In some states where the defendant wishes to make a legal claim against the original plaintiff and no third party is claimed to be involved, a counterclaim, not a cross-complaint, should be used.
cross-examination
At trial, the opportunity to question any witness, including your opponent, who testifies against you on direct examination. The opportunity to cross-examine usually occurs as soon as a witness completes her direct testimony -- often the opposing lawyer or party, or sometimes the judge, signals that it is time to begin cross-examination by saying, "Your witness." Typically, there are two important reasons to engage in cross-examination: to attempt to get the witness to say something helpful to your side, or to cast doubt on (impeach) the witness by getting her to admit something that reduces her credibility -- for example, that her eyesight is so poor that she may not have seen an event clearly.
cross-licensing
Businesses' sharing of patent rights through licensing agreements so that they can use each other's inventions.
cruelty
Any act of inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain. Cruelty or mental cruelty is the most frequently used fault ground for divorce because as a practical matter, courts will accept minor wrongs or disagreements as sufficient evidence of cruelty to justify the divorce.
cum testamento annexo
See administrator with will annexed.
curator
See conservator.
current monthly income
As defined by the new bankruptcy law, a bankruptcy filer's total gross income (whether taxable or not), averaged over the six-month period immediately preceding the bankruptcy filing. The debtor's current monthly income is used to determine whether the debtor can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, among other things.
curtesy
See dower and curtesy.
custodial interference
The taking of a child from his or her parent with the intent to interfere with that parent's physical custody of the child. This is a crime in most states, even if the taker also has custody rights.
custodian
A term used by the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act for the person named to manage property left to a child under the terms of that Act. The custodian will manage the property if the gift giver dies before the child has reached the age specified by state law -- usually 21. When the child reaches the specified age, he will receive the property and the custodian will have no further role in its management.
custody (of a child)
The legal authority to make decisions affecting a child's interests (legal custody) and the responsibility of taking care of the child (physical custody). When parents separate or divorce, one of the hardest decisions they have to make is which parent will have custody. The most common arrangement is for one parent to have custody (both physical and legal) while the other parent has a right of visitation. But it is not uncommon for the parents to share legal custody, even though one parent has physical custody. The most uncommon arrangement is for the parents to share both legal and physical custody.
cybersquatting
Buying a domain name that reflects the name of a business or famous person with the intent of selling the name back to the business or celebrity for a profit. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 authorizes a cybersquatting victim to file a federal lawsuit to regain a domain name or sue for financial compensation. Under the act, registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent to profit from someone else's good name is considered cybersquatting. Victims of cybersquatting can also use the provisions of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy adopted by ICANN, an international tribunal administering domain names. This international policy results in arbitration of the dispute, not litigation.