15 Legal Terms You Should Know


A court proceeding one person brings against another person.  This term is used interchangeably with legal action, case, cause, suit or lawsuit.

Pro se
A person who handles his/her own legal action without the assistance of an attorney.  

The name of the person who initiates the legal action or brings the lawsuit. The plaintiff might also be referred to as a petitioner, or complainant.

The name of the person who the Plaintiff brings the legal action against.  

Refers to the people (ie. the plaintiff and defendant) involved in a legal action or lawsuit.  A party is sometimes referred to as a litigant.

A written document or form that states or explains what a party wants the court to do for them.  The two most common pleadings used in a divorce action are a complaint and an answer.

The pleading prepared by the plaintiff; it is used to initiate a divorce action

The pleading prepared by the defendant; it contains the defendant’s response to the allegations made by the plaintiff

The formal process by which has the divorce complaint delivered to the defendant.  It is sometimes referred to as service of process.

Clerk of Court
The person/office at the courthouse that handles/processes the pleadings and schedules the hearing.

The process of taking the pleadings to the courthouse and having them processed by the clerk of court.

A list of all of the cases that will be heard on a particular day in a particular courtroom

Domestic case
A legal action that involves a family related matter.

A legal action between two individuals as opposed to a criminal action which is legal action between the state and an individual.

This is the pleading or document that the judge or clerk signs that officially ends your marriage.  It is sometimes referred to as an order.


Photo Credit:  Visual Hunt

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