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
fishing expedition
Legal grasping at straws; the use of pre-trial investigation (discovery) or witness questioning in an unfocused attempt to uncover damaging evidence you can use against your adversary.
fitness
The ability of a prospective adoptive parent to provide for the best interests of a child. A court may consider many aspects of the prospective parents' lives in evaluating their fitness to adopt a child, including financial stability, marital stability, career obligations, other children, physical and mental health and criminal history.
fixed in a tangible medium of expression
A requirement before a work can be protected by a copyright. The work must be recorded in some physical medium, whether on paper, audio tape or computer disk. This means that spontaneous speech or musicianship that is not recorded, (a jazz solo, for instance) is not protected by copyright.
fixed rate mortgage
A mortgage loan that has an interest rate that remains constant throughout the life of the loan, so that the amount you pay each month remains the same over the entire mortgage term, typically 15, 20 or 30 years.
FMLA
See Family and Medical Leave Act.
for sale by owner (FSBO)
Selling your house without a real estate broker. Doing so can save you a commission but requires that you devote time and energy not only to marketing and showing the house but also to learning and following the legal rules controlling sales of real estate in your area. The acronym FSBO is pronounced "fizzbo."
forbearance
Voluntarily refraining from doing something, such as asserting a legal right. For example, a creditor may forbear on its right to collect a debt by temporarily postponing or reducing the borrower's payments.
forced share
See statutory share.
foreclosure
The forced sale of real estate to pay off a loan on which the owner of the property has defaulted.
foreign divorce
A divorce obtained in a different state or country from the place where one spouse resides at the time of the divorce. As a general rule, foreign divorces are recognized as valid if the spouse requesting the divorce became a resident of the state or country granting the divorce, and if both parties consented to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. A foreign divorce obtained by one person without the consent of the other is normally not valid, unless the nonconsenting spouse later acts as if the foreign divorce were valid, for example, by remarrying.
forfeiture
The loss of property or a privilege due to breaking a law. For example, a landlord may forfeit his or her property to the federal or state government if the landlord knows it is a drug-dealing site but fails to stop the illegal activity. Or, you may have to forfeit your driver's license if you commit too many moving violations or are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
form interrogatories
Printed or "canned" sets of questions that one party in a lawsuit asks an opposing party. Form interratories cover the issues commonly encountered in the kind of lawsuit at hand. For example, lawyers' form books have sets of interrogatories designed for contract disputes, landlord-tenant cases and many others. Form interrogatories are often supplemented by questions written by the lawyers and designed for the particular issues in the case.
forum
Refers to the court in which a lawsuit is filed or in which a hearing or trial is conducted.
forum nonconveniens
Latin for an inconvenient court. Because these days strict written rules of jurisdiction and venue are used to decide where a case can and cannot be properly filed, this term has largely lost any real meaning, except as yet another example of a confusing Latin term that lawyers take pleasure in using.
forum shopping
The process by which a plaintiff chooses among two or more courts that have the power--technically, the correct jurisdiction and venue--to consider his case. This decision is based on which court is likely to consider the case most favorably. In some instances, a case can properly be filed in two or more federal district courts as well as in the trial courts of several states--and this makes forum shopping a complicated business. It often involves weighing a number of factors, including proximity to the court, the reputation of the judge in the particular legal area, the likely type of available jurors and subtle differences in governing law and procedure.