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General Terms

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Adverse Party / Opposing Party

The person (or people) on the opposite side of a legal proceeding. The respondent is the adverse or opposing party to the petitioner and vice versa.

Adequate Cause

A judge or commissioner has determined that the party has provided the court with enough evidence (valid reasons) to allow the case to continue.


To claim something is true (Ex: Jill alleges that Jack threw a rock at her car).

The Bench / The Court

Another word meaning the Judge.


Non-criminal matters (business, contracts, estates, family relations, accidents, etc.).


A person charged with managing a courtroom and administering law. Court Commissioners cannot sit for jury trials.

In Spokane County, court commissioners hear temporary motions, agreed orders, orders for contempt, orders for adequate cause, and ex parte actions.


Another term used to describe the attorney retained on a case.

Counsel is used in the place of sir or ma'am when addressing an attorney in the courtroom.


A determination the judge or commissioner makes about the case according to the law.


Failure to complete case obligations in the necessary time frame.

To get a Default

The moving party's petition is granted because the opposing party has failed to complete case obligations in the necessary time.

De Facto

A legal term meaning "in fact" or "in reality."

In Family Law de facto can apply to a person who has been raising the children as their own when they have no biological relationship to the child (De Facto Parent).


Loss or harm to a person or property.

A parent who parties in the home and keeps the child awake all night could be considered a detriment to the child because the child is failing classes.

Domestic Violence

Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one family member on another (or one household member on another).


Everything presented at a trial which is intended to convince the judge/jury of alleged facts of the case.

Ex Parte

Court proceedings granted on the request of one party in the case.

Findings / Findings of Fact

The judge or jury's decision about the facts of the case made after deliberation.


A repeated action done to another person that is unwanted and annoying, threatening, or demanding.

Household Member

Anyone living in the home who is related to the homeowner (or renter), someone contributing to the expenses, or someone living outside the home who relies on the homeowner (or renter) to pay expenses. If you can claim them on your taxes, they are a household member.

A college student living on campus is still a member of his parents' household if they are helping to pay for his schooling.

A person renting a room in your house is not a member of your household if they pay their expenses separately.

Judicial Officer

A Commissioner or Judge who hears testimony, reviews evidence, and can make a decision about legal matters.


Joining together parties or lawsuits into one lawsuit or petition (usually with a legal form).

In Washington, this is accomplished with a legal form that must be filed with the clerk's office. The form is commonly called a Joinder, but listed as an Agreement to Join Petition on the Washington Court Forms website.


Relevant or significant - most often used in criminal cases.

Only material evidence will be heard.


To change a preexisting court order or judgement.

Party / Parties

One of the people (or all the people) involved in a legal proceeding who is interested in the outcome.

The Petitioner(s) and Respondent(s) are the parties interested in the case.


The crime of intentionally lying after being sworn to tell the truth by a notary public, court clerk, or judicial officer.

Petitioner / Moving Party

The party who asks the court to make a decision by filing a petition or motion.


To forbid by law or other authority.

Lawsuit / Legal Proceeding / Court Proceeding

A legal proceeding between two parties in the court system.

Leave to Proceed

A decision made by the court that there is enough evidence to allow the parties to move forward with their legal matter.

In Family Law Leave to Proceed typically applies to Non-Parental Custody and Dependency actions.


Someone involved in a legal matter,


The attempt to resolve the issue outside of court through a third-party (mediator).

In Spokane County you have to go to a court recognized mediator.

Pro Se

Someone who does not have an attorney to represent them in court.


An attorney is your representation, and he or she will go to court on your behalf (represent you).

Respondent / Responding Party

The party who receives a motion for a matter to be heard by the court and responds to the moving party's petition.


A decision on a case or legal question.

Settle / to settle

To resolve a legal matter outside of the court without final judgement from a judge or commissioner.


The decision reached by a jury after hearing evidence of a case.


To break or disregard a law, contract, or agreement etc.

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