Glossary

Text: Larger | Smaller

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.

Browse the glossary

To browse the glossary alphabetically, use the following links:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

Search the Glossary

Search the glossary for term/phrase:



CAS
Acronym for Children's Aid Society.
Case
A matter brought before the court for a decision. It includes criminal charges, applications, motions, enforcements and appeals.
Case Conference
(see Conference)
Case Event List
A list of cases to be heard in a particular courtroom during that day. This list may be referred to as the "docket".
Case Law
Judge-made law and legal decisions from previous cases that form precedents for future cases. Depending on what level of court, case law can be binding or just persuasive.
Case Management
A process that gives parties in dispute scheduled opportunities to discuss the case in order to streamline proceedings.
Case Management Master
(see Master)
Cause of Action
A situation that may entitle one person to obtain from the court a remedy against another person.
Caveat
Latin term for a warning. Cautionary words.
Certificate
A document that attests to a fact or court decision.
Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With a Will
A legal document issued by a Superior Court of Justice confirming that the will filed with the court is the last will of the deceased and that the person named as estate trustee in the will has authority to administer the estate of the deceased person. (Commonly referred to as "letters probate" or "probate".)
Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will
Where a person has died without a will, it is a legal document issued by a court authorizing a person to administer the estate of the deceased person. (Commonly referred to as "letters of administration" or "administration".)
Certificate of Divorce
A certificate issued by a court showing that a divorce has been granted under the Divorce Act dissolving the marriage of the persons specified in the certificate.
Certificate of Pending Litigation
Notice to a person that a proceeding has been started against the person questioning their interest in land. To have legal effect, the certificate must be issued by the court and registered in the proper land registry office.
Certify (a Copy)
To formally acknowledge in writing that a copy is an accurate copy of the original document.
Certiorari
(see Prerogative Writs)
Change of Name Act
Ontario statute that governs how a person's name can be legally changed.
Character Evidence
(see Evidence)
Charge
A formal accusation of an offence as a preliminary step to prosecution.
Charter
Frequently used to refer to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter is a part of the Canadian Constitution and guarantees individuals certain rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial.
Child
For most legal purposes, a person under 18 years of age or, in some instances, a person under 16 years of age. A young person without the legal rights and responsibilities of an adult. (see Minor)
Child Abduction
The taking of a child contrary to a court order or without the permission of the parent who has legal custody of the child.
Child Abuse
Any action or series of actions that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Abuse can include physical harm, sexual molestation or exploitation, or emotional or psychological harm.
Child and Family Services Act
Ontario statute that governs child protection, secure treatment, adoption and some matters relating to young offenders. It establishes the exclusive authority of children's aid societies to investigate allegations that children may be in need of protection.
Child in Need of Protection
In child protection cases, a child who the court finds has been harmed, or who is at risk of being harmed, by the person who had charge of the child before the children's aid society intervened. Criminal charges may also be pursued against that person.
Child Protection Case
A case in which a party, generally a children's aid society, files an application under the Child and Family Services Act, seeking a finding by the court that a child is in need of protection and an order concerning how the child is to be protected in the future.
Child Support
(see Support)
Child Support Guidelines
Rules and tables calculating the amount of child support that should be paid to the parent with whom the children reside based on the payor's income, number of children, and the province or territory of residence. Exceptions to the guidelines allow a court to order different amounts in particular cases.
Child Welfare
Another term used for child protection.
Children's Aid Society (CAS)
An agency that investigates allegations that children may be in need of protection, protects and cares for those children where necessary, and provides guidance, counselling and other services to families for the protection of children.
Children's Law Reform Act
Ontario statute that governs the finding or declaration of parentage, custody of and access to children, orders restraining harassment, and guardianship.
Children's Lawyer (Office of the)
A part of the Ministry of the Attorney General that delivers services in the administration of justice on behalf of children under the age of 18 with respect to their personal and property rights. The Office's lawyers represent children in areas of law such as custody and access, child protection, estate and civil litigation. Clinical investigators working for the Office prepare reports for the court in custody and access proceedings and may assist lawyers who are representing children in such matters.
Circumstantial Evidence
(see Evidence)
Civil Law
(1)The law of civil or private rights, as distinct from criminal law. (2) A system of private legal rights based on Roman law and usually expressed in a Code, for example the Civil Code of Quebec.
Claim
The assertion of a legal right.
Statement of Claim
The method of bringing an action by one person against another.
Counterclaim
An action brought by the defendant in an existing action against the plaintiff, which is usually tried with the plaintiff's claim.
Cross Claim
An action brought between co-defendants or co-plaintiffs in an existing action.
Third Party Claim
An action brought by the defendant in an existing action against another person, asserting that this third party is liable for some or all of the plaintiff's damages rather than the defendant.
Class Action
A lawsuit commenced by a single person or small group of people on behalf of a larger group of people who may all have a legal action against the same defendant .
Clerk of the Court
The administrative officer in a court who is assigned some or all of the responsibilities of the court, such as signing court orders, issuing particular documents, maintaining the court's record, and performing other duties under the Courts of Justice Act and other legislation, and under the rules of court.
Cohabit
To live together in a spousal relationship, whether within or outside of marriage.
Cohabitation Agreement
(see Domestic Contract)
Collaborative Family Law
(see Alternative Dispute Resolution)
Commission
(1) An act or action. A positive action in contrast to an omission. (2) To confirm with a person, by asking him or her under oath or affirmation, that the information he or she is providing in a document is true. Only persons authorized to commission a document may do so.
Commissioner for Taking Affidavits
A person authorized to administer oaths and affirmations and before whom affidavits, declarations and affirmations may be made.
Common Law
  1. Legal customs and past decisions of judges (case law), in contrast to statute law.
  2. A term that describes a relationship where two people live together as spouses but are not married.
Compellable Witness
(see Witness)
Compensatory Damages
(see Damages)
Competence
A basic ability to do something. Competence determines such things as whether an individual can give evidence, stand trial, bring an action, make decisions with regard to property or personal care, or consent to something.
Complainant
A person who brings a legal complaint against another; may include the victim of an alleged criminal offence.
Concurrent Sentence
(see Sentence)
Conditional Discharge
(see Discharge)
Conditional Sentence
(see Sentence)
Conditional Supervision
(see Sentence)
Conference
A meeting between parties in a legal case or proceeding. Different types of conferences are found in the justice system:
Case Conference
A meeting between a judge and the parties or their lawyers, or all together, to identify disputed issues and explore methods of resolving those issues in a timely manner.
Pre-Trial Conference
A meeting between a judge and the parties' lawyers (the parties may or may not be present), to consider the possibility of settling or simplifying the issues and determining questions of liability, what remedy a party seeks, and the estimated duration of the hearing.
Settlement Conference
A meeting between a judge and the parties or their lawyers, or all together, to identify any issues that can be settled or any facts agreed upon and the evidence that will be relied on for the outstanding issues.
Trial Management Conference
A meeting between the judge and the parties or their lawyers, or all together, to facilitate an orderly trial and explore possibilities for settling the matter.
Confession
An admission of guilt.
Consecutive Sentence
(see Sentence)
Consent
  1. Agreement or permission that is given voluntarily by a competent person, either orally or in writing.
  2. Sometimes refers to the written form of an agreement.
Consent and Capacity Board
Independent provincial tribunal that makes decisions about matters of capacity, consent, civil committal and substitute decision making under statutes including the Health Care Consent Act, Mental Health Act and Substitute Decisions Act.
Consent Order
(see Order)
Constructive Trust
(see Trust)
Contempt of Court
Conduct that defies the authority or dignity of a court, including disobeying a court order.
Contest
To oppose, resist, disagree.
Contingency Fee
(see Fees)
Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
(see Power of Attorney)
Continuing Record
In family law cases, the court's record of a case, which consists of written documents that have been filed with the court.
Contract
An oral or written agreement between parties in which the parties make mutual promises to each other. The parties must be at least 18 years of age, and be mentally capable of entering into such an agreement.
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Federal statute controlling drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, and other potentially harmful substances.
Conviction
The act of finding someone guilty.
Corroborating Evidence
(see Evidence)
Corollary Relief
(see Relief)
Costs
A money award made by a court or tribunal for expenses in bringing or defending a legal proceeding or a step in a proceeding. Costs may also be ordered against a party, in favour of the other, for failing to follow the court's directions or instructions before or during a step in the case.
Partial Indemnity Costs
Costs awarded in civil matters against a party to pay some of the legal expenses incurred by the other party..
Substantial Indemnity Costs
Costs awarded in civil matters against a party to pay most, but not all, of the actual legal expenses incurred by the other party (e.g., lawyer's fees).
Counsel
  1. A lawyer, especially in a court proceeding.
  2. Referring to an offence, to persuade or encourage a person to do something against the law.
Count
A criminal charge in an information or indictment.
Counterclaim
(see Claim)
Court
A place where justice is administered.
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is Canada's final court of appeal. It hears appeals from provincial and territorial courts of appeal and from the Federal Court of Appeal.
Court of Appeal for Ontario
The highest court in the province. It hears appeals from lower Ontario courts. Decisions of the Court of Appeal may be further appealed on a question of law to the Supreme Court of Canada, if the Supreme Court agrees. In criminal matters, a person who is convicted of an indictable offence may also appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada as of right on any question of law on which a judge of the Court of Appeal dissents.
Superior Court of Justice
The Superior Court of Justice hears criminal prosecutions of indictable offences, summary conviction appeals, bail reviews, estates, civil suits (over $25,000), and, where the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice does not exist, the court also hears family cases other than child protection, secure treatment, adoption cases and appeals of child protection cases.
Divisional Court
The Divisional Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. The court hears appeals and reviews of decisions by government agencies, tribunals and boards, as well as some appeals.
Family Court
The Family Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. It hears all family cases. Where the Family Court does not exist, jurisdiction over family matters is divided between the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice.
Small Claims Court
The Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. The court hears civil actions for claims up to $25,000.
Ontario Court of Justice
This court hears criminal and Provincial Offences Act prosecutions, Provincial Offences Act appeals, and, in areas where the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice does not exist, the court also hears family cases other than cases that contain claims for divorce or division of property.
Court File
The court's physical record of a case, including all documents filed with the court.
Court of Appeal
(see Court)
Court Order
(see Order)
Creditor
A person to whom money is owed.
Criminal Code of Canada
Federal legislation that is the source of criminal law and procedure in Canada.
Criminal Law
Law that prohibits harmful or undesirable conduct, and the processes by in which the state ("the Crown") responds to this conduct.
Criminal Rate of Interest
(see Interest Rate)
Criminal Record
Documentation of criminal conviction(s) imposed on a person.
Cross Claim
(see Claim)
Cross-Examination
(see Examination)
Crown
The government. (Cabinet ministers and public servants, but not the Legislature or judges.)
Crown Attorney
A lawyer who acts as an agent of the Attorney General in civil lawsuits; a lawyer who prosecutes criminal matters on behalf of the Crown.
Crown Prosecution
(see Prosecution)
Crown Wardship
In child protection cases, a child who has been placed permanently in the care of a children's aid society. The state or Crown becomes the child's legal parent and has the rights and responsibilities of a parent.
Custody
  1. The care and control of a thing or a person. For example, in criminal matters, a person is taken into custody upon arrest or while awaiting trial.
  2. In family law cases, this describes the arrangement made for the care of children when parents separate or children are found in need of protection. Different types of child custody arrangements include:
    Joint Custody
    The children live primarily with one parent and the other parent spends regular time with the children. However, the parents jointly make decisions about the children.
    Shared Custody
    Where both parents are involved in decision-making about the children and share in their on-going care. According to the Child Support Guidelines, shared custody is where the children live at least 40% of the time with each parent.
    Sole Custody
    The children live with one parent, and that parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child's care, education, religious instruction and welfare. The other parent usually has access to the child.
    Split Custody
    When the parents have more than one child together and each parent has custody of one or more of those children.
Custody and Community Supervision
(see Sentence)
Custody and Conditional Supervision
(see Sentence)
Customary Care
In child protection cases, where a child is placed in the care and supervision of an Aboriginal person who is not the child's parent, according to the custom of the child's band or native community.