Chrystal Sommers Brand - Family Lawyer


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Adoption: A court proceeding through which an adult becomes the legal parent of someone who is not his or her biological child.

Alimony: See Spousal support.

Allegation: A statement in a pleading or an affidavit of what the party intends to prove.

Answer: The second pleading in a divorce, which is served in response to the complaint for divorce. The Answer admits or denies the allegations in the complaint, and may also make claims against the other party.

Appeal: The process by which a higher court reviews the proceedings resulting in an order or judgment of a lower court and determines whether there was reversible error.

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Change of Venue: A change of the place where a case is to be tried.

Child Support: Financial support for a child.

Cohabitation: Living together in the same residence, generally for an extended period of time as if the parties were married. A Cohabitation Agreement is sometimes used to address issues such as property ownership and management while parties are cohabitating.

Common Law Marriage: A relationship between a man and a woman that is recognized as a marriage in some states, although no license or ceremony was involved. A divorce is required to terminate a common-law marriage. Alaska does not recognize common-law marriages except those from other states.

Community Property: Generally, property acquired during a marriage as a result of the parties' work and effort. Alaska is not a community property state.

Contempt of Court: The intentional failure to comply with a court order, judgment, or decree. This may be punishable in a variety of ways.

Contested Case: Any case in which the parties do not agree and the court must decide one or more issues.

Court Order: A written document issued by a court, which becomes effective only when signed by a judge.

Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness by the opposing party during a trial or at a deposition.

Custody: The legal right and responsibility awarded by a court for the care, possession, and rearing of a child. Distinction is sometimes made between legal custody, which relates to decision-making responsibility, and physical custody, which relates to residence or physical access.

Custody Investigator: A person appointed by the court who does an impartial evaluation and submits a report to the court making recommendations as to custody and visitation. The custody investigator is not an advocate for either party's position, but must remain neutral while focusing on the best interests of the child(ren). See also, Guardian ad Litem.

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Default or Default Judgment: An order or judgment granted by a court without hearing the other side because that side failed to submit papers within the time allowed or failed to appear at a hearing.

Defendant (Respondent): The person (husband or wife) who is sued for divorce.

Deposition: The testimony of a witness taken under oath and in writing, but not in court.

Direct Examination: The initial questioning of a witness in court by the lawyer who called him or her to the stand.

Discovery: Procedures for getting information from the opposing party to determine the accuracy and credibility of claims. Discovery may include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions.

Dissolution: A proceeding to end a marriage wherein the parties mutually agree to the terms of property division, child custody and support, child visitation, spousal support, and other issues, and jointly file a petition to end the marriage on those terms with the court.

Domestic Relations Standing Order: A document that is filed at the beginning of a divorce action in Southeast Alaska, formally prohibiting either spouse from selling or transferring marital property, money, or taking other actions that might be to the detriment of the other spouse or the marital estate.

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Emancipation: The point at which a child may be treated as an adult and where the duty to support may terminate except under certain circumstances.

Evidence: Documents, testimony, or other information offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations.

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Guardian ad Litem: A professional (not necessarily a lawyer) appointed by the court to represent the children in a divorce or custody proceeding. See also, Custody Investigator.

Guardianship (children): A legal relationship created by a court between a guardian and a minor child. The guardian has a legal right and duty to care for the child.

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Hearing: Any proceeding before the court (except trial) for the purpose of resolving disputed issues through testimony and argument.

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Interim Support: A temporary order of the court that provides support for one spouse and/or children while the divorce is in progress.

Interrogatories: A series of written questions to discover certain facts regarding disputed issues. Responses must be provided under oath and within a certain time period.

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Joint Custody: A situation where both parents share the rights and responsibilities for possession, care, and raising of the children.

Jurisdiction: The authority of the court to rule on issues.

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Marital Property: Generally, income and property acquired by spouses during the marriage.

Mediation: A voluntary process where a neutral third party (often an attorney, but not necessarily) helps the parties negotiate a settlement.

Motion: A written application to the court for some particular relief, such as temporary support or attorney's fees.

Motion to Modify: A party's written request to the court to change a prior court order.

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Order: The court's ruling on a motion, requiring the parties to do certain things or setting forth their rights and responsibilities.

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Plaintiff (Petitioner): The person filing the complaint or petition.

Pleading: A written application to the court for relief and the response to it. The term "pleading" is generally used to include complaints, answers, counterclaims, replies, and motions.

Prenuptial Agreement: An agreement made by a couple prior to marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property.

Probate: The court process following a person's death.

Pro se: A person in a court case who is not represented by a lawyer, but rather represents him- or herself.

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Relief: Whatever a party to a court proceeding asks the court to do.

Request for Admission: A series of formal written requests for a party to admit or deny certain factual allegations. Responses must be provided within a certain timeframe.

Request for Production: A series of formal written requests for documents such as financial records. Responses must be provided within a certain timeframe.

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Separate Property: Property that belongs to only one spouse, such as gifts or items acquired before marriage.

Separation Agreement: A written agreement setting forth the terms for spouses to live separate and apart, negotiated by a husband and wife.

Settlement: An agreement to resolve disputed issues. Settlements may cover part or all of the issues in a divorce, including custody.

Spousal Support: Payment of support from one party in a divorce to another.

Stipulation: An agreement between the parties or their lawyers.

Subpoena: A document served on a person requiring them to appear in court or at a deposition. A subpoena duces tecum is a subpoena requiring a person to bring certain documents.

Summons: Written notice that a legal action has commenced and that a response is required within a certain time.

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Testimony: Statements given under oath by a witness in court or at a deposition.

Transcript: An official typewritten record of the exact testimony taken by a court reporter during a deposition or in court.

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Uncontested Divorce: A divorce proceeding in which the parties have agreed on all issues.

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