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
specific performance
A remedy provided by a court that orders the losing side to perform its part of a contract rather than, or possibly in addition to, paying money damages to the winner.
specification
In patent law, the narrative portion of a patent application, which includes descriptions of the purpose, structure and operation of the invention, as well as a discussion of any relevant prior art. Essentially, the specification must provide enough information about the invention so that a person proficient in the area of expertise involved in the invention could build and operate it without having to be overly creative.
spendthrift trust
A trust created for a beneficiary the grantor considers irresponsible about money. The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the beneficiary as needed, and sometimes paying third parties (creditors, for example) on the beneficiary's behalf, bypassing the beneficiary completely. Spendthrift trusts typically contain a provision prohibiting creditors from seizing the trust fund to satisfy the beneficiary's debts. These trusts are legal in most states, even though creditors hate them.
spite fence
An unsightly fence erected for no other purpose than to irritate a neighbor. Such a fence may be illegal under local fence height and appearance regulations or state laws that specifically bar spite fences. Even if it doesn't violate regulation or laws, the fence may still be illegal if it was built with malicious intent.
split custody
A custody arrangement in the case of multiple children, awarding sole custody of one child to one parent and sole custody of another child to the other parent. This arrangement is generally disfavored by judges because they are reluctant to split up siblings.
sponsor
See petitioner (immigration).
spousal support
See alimony.
springing durable power of attorney
A durable power of attorney that takes effect only when and if the principal becomes incapacitated.
sprinkling trust
A trust that gives the person managing it (the trustee) the discretion to disburse its funds among the beneficiaries in any way he or she sees fit.
stare decisis
Latin for "let the decision stand," a doctrine requiring that judges apply the same reasoning to lawsuits as has been used in prior similar cases.
state court
A court that decides cases involving state law or the state constitution. State courts have jurisdiction to consider disputes involving individual defendants who reside in that state or have minimum contacts with the state, such as using its highways, owning real property in the state or doing business in the state. State courts have very broad power to hear cases involving all subjects except those involving federal issues and laws, which are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. State courts are often divided according to the dollar amount of the claims they can hear. Depending on the state, small claims, justice, municipal or city courts usually hear smaller cases, while district, circuit, superior or county courts (or in New York, supreme court) have jurisdiction over larger cases. Finally, state courts are also commonly divided according to subject matter, such as criminal court, family court and probate court.
State's Attorney
See District Attorney.
status (immigration)
The name for the visa category you're assigned and group of privileges you receive when you become a permanent resident or a nonimmigrant (temporary visa holder). For example, a green card shows that the holder has the status of a permanent resident and the privilege of living and working in the United States on a permanent basis. An F-1 or M-1 visa indicates that the holder has the status of a student and the privilege of attending school in the United States until the study program is completed.
statute
A written law passed by Congress or a state legislature and signed into law by the President or a state governor. (In fairly rare circumstances, a legislative act can become law without the approval of the head of the executive branch of government.) Statutes are often gathered into compilations called "codes," large sets of books that can be found in many public and all law libraries, or sometimes on the Internet.
statute of limitations
The legally prescribed time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. Statutes of limitation differ depending on the type of legal claim, and often the state. For example, many states require that a personal injury lawsuit be filed within one year from the date of injury -- or in some instances, from the date when it should reasonably have been discovered -- but some allow two years. Similarly, claims based on a written contract must be filed in court within four years from the date the contract was broken in some states and five years in others. Statute of limitations rules apply to cases filed in all courts, including federal court.