Glossary of Court Terms
ABSENT PARENT: Any individual that is absent from the home and
is legally responsible for providing financial support for a dependent
AFFIDAVIT: A written statement of facts signed and confirmed by
the oath of the person making it. It must be signed by a notary public
or other official having authority to administer oaths.
ANNULMENT: A declaration that a valid marriage never existed.
APPEAL: Legal process used to ask a higher court to review a decision
made in a legal matter from the trial court.
APPELLANT: The party appealing to an appellate court from a decision
of a trial court.
APPELLATE COURT: A higher court than a trial court, usually consisting
of three or more judges, having jurisdiction to hear and decide appeals
from trial courts, and to reverse, affirm or modify their decisions.
ARREARAGES (Arrears): Unpaid child support/spousal maintenance
payments owed by a person who is obligated to pay support.
ATLAS: The Arizona Tracking Location Automation System is a statewide
computer system for child support enforcement.
CAPTION: The heading of the pleading, or other court papers showing
the name of the court paper, showing the name of the court, the names
of the parties, and sometimes the number of the case.
CERTIFIED COPY: A copy of a document or record, signed and certified
as a true copy by an authorized person.
CHANGE OF VENUE: The moving of a case begun in one county, or
state to another county, or state.
CHILD SUPPORT: The legal obligation of a parent to pay money toward
the care and maintenance of his/her child(ren).
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES: A formula to determine the child support
amount based upon gross income of both parents. This formula uses a child
support worksheet which must be submitted to the court.
CLERK: In charge of recording court proceedings and keeping the
COMPLAINANT: The party who initiates a suit; the plaintiff.
COMPLAINT: The first pleading in a civil case filed by the plaintiff.
It alleges the material facts and legal theories to support the plaintiff's
claim against the defendant.
CUSTODY ORDER: An order entered by the court which states which
parent the child(ren) will live with.
a) Joint Custody - Both parents share important decisions about their
b) Sole Custody - One parent is responsible for important decisions regarding
the child(ren) living with them.
c) Custodial Parent - Person with legal custody and with whom the child
d) Non-custodial Parent - Parent who does not have primary custody of
a child but who is responsible for financial support.
e) Primary Residential Parent -> In a joint custody agreements a term
which indicates the parent with whom the child(ren) reside the majority
of the time.
DCSE (Division of Support Enforcement):A division of the Department
of Economic Security which has responsibility to provide certain support
services. It is also referred to as the designated IV-D agency.
DECREE: Final order ending a marriage signed by the judge/commissioner
and filed with the Clerk of the Court.
DEFERRED FEES: Court fees which must be paid at a later date.
DISPOSITION: An orderly and final arrangement of pending matters.
DOCKET: A formal record entered in brief of the proceedings in
a court of justice.
EXHIBIT: An article of tangible evidence introduced at a trial.
Photographs, letters, and other documents are common examples. Others
are murder weapons, samples of earth or chemicals, parts of automobiles
or machinery or other material that is of assistance on proving a relevant
FEES:Monies the court is required to collect. The fees are set
by the Arizona State Legislature. Fees may be waived or deferred if the
party is eligible.
FILED: The act of delivering a document to the Clerk for processing
and placement in the hard copy file.
FILING COUNTER: The filing counter is the starting point for the
majority of court cases, including Criminal, Domestic Relations, Civil,
Tax, Mental Health, and Probate.
IV-D CASES: Cases in which a party has requested service of the
Department of Economic Security, or has been automatically referred to
DES to collect child support.
JUDGMENT: A decision by a court which establishes the rights of
the parties in an action or proceeding.
LEGAL SEPARATION: A court order establishing the terms of: custody,
support, etc. under which a married couple will live separately.
MINOR CHILDREN: Children who are under the age of 18.
MINUTE ENTRY: An official record of what takes place in court
made available to the parties.
MOTION: A formal written request to the Court asking that a specific
action be taken.
OBLIGEE: Person to whom support is owed.
OBLIGOR: Person ordered to pay support.
ORDER OF ASSIGNMENT (Wage Assignment):An order from the court
directing that deductions be taken from wages or other income to pay current
or past-due child support or spousal maintenance.
PARTY: Person or governmental agency named in a case.
PETITION: A request to the court to take action.
PETITION FOR DISSOLUTION: The initial pleading that allows a party
to ask the court to end or dissolve a marriage.
PETITIONER: The party who files a petition with the court.
PROBATE: The act of proving a will is genuine, usually done before
the judge or clerk of the probate court by witnesses to the will.
PRO PER (Pro Se): A person who does not hire a lawyer and appears
for himself/herself in court.
RESPONDENT: The party who receives any document requesting action
by the court.
SIMPLIFIED MODIFICATION: A procedure in which a person paying
or receiving child support attempts to show a change in circumstances.
SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE: Court ordered monies paid to a spouse.
STIPULATION: A written agreement signed by both parties or counsel.
SUBSEQUENT EMPLOYER: Refers to any employer other than the first
employer of an Obligor upon whom an Order of Assignment (Wage Assignment)
has been served. A subsequent employer must honor the order of assignment
as the first employer did.
SUPPORT ORDER: Any order entered by the court for the payment
of support. Support may include payment for medical, dental, and other
health care, childcare and education expenses as well as spousal maintenance.
VISITATION: The amount of time established by the court that the
child(ren) spend with the non-custodial parent of grandparent.
VISITATION SERVICES: A unit of the Family Support Center's Expedited
Services program that helps the court in enforcing custody/visitation
orders when parental cooperation is lacking.
WAIVED FEES: Court fees which are not required to be paid because
of the financial condition of the party.