Glossary of Terms

The following terms are commonly used in the Friend of the Court system:

  • Abatement:  A reduction in child support based on the order (commonly 50% for six or more consecutive overnights).
  • Adjournment:  Postponing or putting off a case or session of court until another time or place.
  • Affidavit:  A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation.
  • Alimony:  See spousal support.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):  Alternative methods to help people resolve legal problems before going to court.  ADR involves an independent third person, called a "neutral" who tries to help resolve or narrow the areas of conflict.
  • Arrearage:  Money which is overdue and unpaid. 
  • Bench Warrant:  A court order for the arrest of a person, so that he or she may be brought before the court.
  • Chief Judge:  In courts with two or more judges, one judge is selected as chief judge.  The chief judge is the director of the administration of the court.
  • Contiguous:  Being in actual contact; touching along a boundary or at a point.
  • Domestic Relations Action:  Any action involving divorce, paternity, custody, parenting time, and support is considered a domestic relations action.
  • Domicile:  The permanent home to which a person, when absent, always intends to return.
  • Department of Human Services (DHS):  The state agency that provides public assistance to families.  The Child Protective Services and the Office of Child Support are divisions of DHS.
  • Evidence:  The testimony of a witness, documents, or other items presented to a court to prove a fact.
  • Family Division of Circuit Court:  The division of  the circuit court responsible for hearing cases about families and their  children.  The family division hears domestic relations matters, as well as  juvenile matters formerly heard by the probate court.
  • Friend of the Court:  In this website, depending on the context, “Friend of the Court” usually means an office that assists the circuit court’s family division.  The office investigates, makes recommendations and helps enforce orders that affect minor children.  “Friend of the Court” also is the formal title of the person in charge of that office.
  • Grievance:  A formal complaint filed for reason of unsatisfactory compliance with specified regulations.
  • Hearsay:  A statement made by a person who is not in court, which is repeated in court to prove a fact.  Most hearsay evidence is not allowed as evidence in court.
  • Joint Custody:  An order of the family division which provides: 
      1.  Parents will share in major decisions affecting their children (joint legal custody); or 
      2.  Children will live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time (joint physical custody).
  • Jurisdiction:  The power of the court to decide cases before it.  This power depends on the type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county where the court is located.
  • Legal Residence:  A child whose parental custody is governed by court order has a legal residence with each parent.
  • Motion:  A formal request made in writing to the court.  A motion is sometimes called a petition. 
  • Order:  The written and signed decision of the court.
  • Party:  A person legally involved in a particular action.
  • Payee:  The person, or agency, to whom support is sent.  Also known as recipient.
  • Payer:  The person who is ordered to pay support.  Also known as an obligor.
  • Petition:  See motion.
  • Pleadings:  Papers filed by a party in a lawsuit stating claims against the other party, or the other party’s defenses to those claims.
  • Reconciliation:  When parties to a domestic relations action are attempting to work out their differences and remain as a family unit.
  • Show Cause Hearing:  A court hearing which is held so that a person can present reasons why he or she should not be considered in violation of a specific court order.  Also known as a "Contempt of Court" hearing.
  • Spousal Support:  Money ordered to be paid permanently or for a specified period of time to support a spouse or former spouse.
  • State Disbursement Unit:  A state office which collects and distributes support payments in accordance with the court’s orders.
  • Statute of Limitations:  In civil matters, the time limit on the right to seek relief in court for damages.
  • TANF:  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  Replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC or ADC).  In Michigan, known as Financial Independence Program (FIP).
  • Testimony:  The statement of a witness under oath which is given as evidence.
  • Transcript:  A word for word record of proceedings at a hearing.
  • Waive:  To give up a right, claim or privilege.
  • Witness:  One who testifies to what (s)he has seen, heard, or otherwise observed.