Common Legal Terminology And What It Means

Legal documents sometimes seem to speak a different language and use complicated terms that make your document difficult to understand. Here are some common terms defined to help you better navigate your legal documents:

Acknowledgment: An acknowledgment is used to authenticate and validate a document to ensure the document is not false or fraudulent. An acknowledgment is signed by the party in front of a notary public.

Adjudication: A decision made by a Judge

Affidavit: A written statement made under oath that the information provided is true and correct.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: This is any method used to resolve a dispute outside of court proceedings. I.E. Mediation

Annulment: When a marriage is declared invalid

Answer:A written document filed in a civil case that responds to the Petition or complaint filed.

Arrearages: Payments that are past due.

Beneficiary: A person or entity that receives money or benefits from a benefactor (another person or entity).

Bequeath:The act of leaving a gift of personal property to another

Brief: A written document filed with the Court that supports the filing party’s previously filed arguments or complaints.

Contempt: Being disobedient or non compliant of the court’s orders.

Conservator: A person appointed by a Judge to manage the financial affairs of another person

Counter Claim: A complaint filed by a Defendant in a case against the original filer of a compliant, the Plaintiff that relates to the same matter or event.

Default: Failure to respond, appear or do something as ordered by the court within the required time.

Depose: To testify or present evidence in response to the opposing party’s questions, under oath and outside of the court room.

Dissolution: The legal end to a marriage.

Equitable: To be found as fair, impartial and without bias.

Executor/Executrix: A person appointed by a deceased person through a Will to carry out the instructions and wishes of the deceased.

Ex Parte: Done for, or by, one person or side of a case, without notice to the other.

Direct Expenses: As referred to in Kansas child support matters. Direct expenses are direct expenses paid directly to a third party for the benefit of a minor child and expenses supporting those direct activities such as school expenses, school supplies, church, recreational activities, sports, extracurricular activities and clothing. This does not include uninsured medical expenses.

Duress: When someone is compelled or feels forced to do something against their will out of fear of harm.

Guardian Ad Litem: A person appointed to by a Judge to represent the bests interests of a child or unborn baby during court proceedings.

In Camera: A latin term meaning “in chambers”. This is a private hearing or discussion that takes place with the Judge in his office or after all spectators and jury members have been dismissed from the court room.

Injunction: A court order that requires you to either stop doing or to start doing something.

Interrogatories:: Formal, written requests for information from one litigant to another that are required to be answered in order to clarify matters of fact and help determine facts that will be presented at trial.

Per Stirpes: Meaning “by branch” in latin. Used in estate documents to say that each branch of the family gets an equal share of the estate.

Pro Se: Meaning “yourself” in latin. This is when you DIY your case meaning you prepare your own documents and represent yourself in court without representation.

Residue: Something that is left over or remaining after something has been removed.

Spousal Maintenance: Another term for alimony or spousal support where one spouse is ordered to provide financial support to the other, usually by way of a monthly payment.

Statute (I.E. K.S.A 20-318): a law enacted by a legislative body

Subpoena: An demand to appear in court.

Summons: A document informing a party they are being sued and informs a person of their deadline to respond or a date in which they are to appear in court.

ss: A symbol seen on the notary public’s acknowledgement meaning “signed and sworn”, as it is signed and sworn by the notary public.

Testator/Testatrix: A person who makes a will.

Trustee: A person or entity who sets aside property for the use of another person or entity and manages the property and controls the property as instructed to do so by the person whom appointed them.

Vendee: A buyer or purchaser from a vendor.

Writ: An order granting authority to act and enforce compliance or submission.


Mary McMullen