Glossary of Terms

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This legal glossary is a basic guide to common legal terms. A lawyer is in the best position to advise you about your legal rights and responsibilities.

Different terms may have different meanings based on the specific area of law or the context in which they are being used. For legal terms not referred to in this glossary, or for more comprehensive definitions, you may wish to refer to a legal dictionary or to an internet resource.

Absentee
A person who has disappeared or whose whereabouts are unknown.
Absolute Discharge
(see Discharge)
Absolute Liability
(see Liability)
Access
In family law cases, the right to spend time with the children on a regular basis and to receive information on the children's health, education, and well-being.
Accountant of the Superior Court of Justice
The person who has authority to accept monies that are paid into the Superior Court, except for proceedings under the Landlord and Tenant Act or the Repair and Storage Liens Act or actions in Small Claims Court.
Accused
A person or company charged with a crime; the defendant in a criminal trial.
Acquittal
A finding of "not guilty" in a criminal case.
Act
A law passed by the provincial or federal legislature. Acts are also referred to as ‘statutes'.
Action
A legal proceeding in a civil case.
Actus Reus
Latin for "guilty act." A voluntary action or omission that, when intentional, results in a criminal offence.
Adjournment
Postponement of a court hearing to another date. (see Remand)
Administration Bond
(see Bond)
Administrator (Estate Trustee)
A person appointed by the court to administer the estate of a person who has died without a will or the estate of an executor named in a will. The administrator is now called an estate trustee.
Admissible Evidence
(see Evidence)
Adoption
The process in which a person, usually a child, becomes a legal member of a new family. Once an adoption is finalized, the person becomes the legal child of the adoptive parent(s) and the parental rights of the biological parent(s) are terminated.
Affidavit
A written statement or declaration of facts that are sworn or affirmed to be true.
Affidavit of Service
An affidavit certifying that a document has been served on a party.
Affirmation
A solemn declaration made by a person to tell the truth. Lying in an affirmation is perjury, a criminal offence.
Aggravated Damages
(see Damages)
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Resolving conflict through means other than going to court. Examples of alternative dispute resolution include: arbitration, mediation, and collaborative family law.
Arbitration
A process where a neutral third party, selected by the disputing parties, makes a decision on the issue in dispute.
Collaborative Family Law
A process where the parties and lawyers formally agree to negotiate a resolution of the issues in dispute through a series of meetings, without going to court.
Mediation
A process where a neutral third party (mediator), selected by the disputing parties, assists parties to reach agreement on issues in dispute.
Amicus Curiae
Latin for "friend of the court." A lawyer who assists the court during the course of a hearing, to represent a position or interest, usually at the court's request.
Annulment
A declaration by a judge that a marriage is invalid. If a marriage is annulled, it is as if the marriage never occurred.
Answer
A response to an allegation or an application.
Appeal
A request made to a higher court, tribunal or authority for the review of a decision.
Appeal Period
The time limit within which one can appeal.
Appearance Notice
A document that requires people to appear in court to answer charges against them in a criminal case.
Appellant
The party bringing an appeal.
Applicant
A person who makes or starts an application.
Application
  1. The commencement of a proceeding in a court by way of filing the appropriate court form.
  2. A request made to the court.
Apprehend
  1. To take or seize.
  2. In child protection cases, to remove a child from his or her parents or the person having care of the child and take him or her to a place of safety. Child protection workers and police have the authority to do this.
Arbitration
(see Alternative Dispute Resolution)
Arbitrator
A neutral third party, selected by the parties to a dispute, who makes a decision on an issue in dispute.
Arraignment
The initial step in a criminal proceeding to confirm the identity of the accused, formally read the charges, and ask how the accused pleads.
Arrears
Money that is owed to a party under a court order or agreement, but has not been paid.
Arrest
The taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal authority, usually in response to a criminal charge.
Assessment
  1. The determination of the rate or amount of something. For example, damages or a fine imposed.
  2. In family law cases, an analysis by a qualified professional who investigates, assesses and reports on the needs of the child(ren) and the ability of the parties to meet those needs.
  3. In criminal law cases, a determination by a qualified person of the mental condition of an accused person.
  4. In civil cases, a determination of the capacity of an individual to manage property, to make personal care decisions, or to properly retain and instruct counsel.
Fitness Assessment
An analysis performed by a psychiatrist or psychologist to determine whether a person is fit to stand trial.
Solicitor-Client Assessment
A hearing where an assessment officer reviews the amount of a lawyer's bill.
Capacity Assessment
A determination by a capacity assessor, or the court, as to a person's ability to manage property, make personal care decisions, or to properly retain and instruct counsel
Assessment Order
(see Order)
Attorney
  1. A term for a lawyer – more often used in the United States.
  2. A person who has been appointed under a power of attorney by a capable grantor to act on their behalf. An Attorney can be for either property issues, or personal care issues, or both.
Attorney General
The principal law officer of "the Crown"; the Minister of the provincial or federal government responsible for the administration of justice.