To reduce, diminish or temporarily suspend.


Abbreviation for Aid to Families with Dependant Children. Replaced by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or Financial Independence Program (FIP).


The postponing or putting off of a case or session of court until another time or place.


A final judicial determination by the giving of a judgment or a decree in a civil case.


The act by which a person takes the child of another into his or her own family and makes the child, for all legal purposes, his or her own child.

Adversary Proceedings

Actions contested by opposing parties.


A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation.

Aid to Families with Dependant Children

A program of public assistance to families, administered in Michigan by the Family Independence Agency. Replaced by in Michigan by the Financial Independence Program (FIP), also called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) by the federal government.


See spousal support.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

A method to resolve disagreements without the direct intervention of the court. See Arbitration, Conciliation, Mediation.

Amended Order of Probation

Used to add or delete information contained in the original Order of Probation, as recommended by the judge or probation officer.


An application to a higher court requesting a change of the judgment of a lower court.

Appellate Court

A court which reviews lower court decisions, generally on the record of the lower court.


1.Coming into court: The formal act by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court.

2. Document identifying one who is representing himself or another. An attorney files an "appearance" making it known that (s)he is representing an individual.

Arbitration/Binding Mediation

A procedure for the determination of a disputed matter. Legally binding, as opposed to mediation.


A court hearing at which the defendant is informed of the specific criminal charges for which he or she is being charged. This is the first step in your case being processed by the court.


Money which is overdue and unpaid.


A lawyer; a person admitted to legal practice who is qualified to represent the legal interests of another person.

Bench Warrant

An order issued by the court (from the bench) for the arrest of a person, so that (s)he may be brought before the court.

Bond, Bail, or Bail Bond

A promise that the defendant in a misdemeanor case will appear in court when required. This promise is normally guaranteed by the defendant or someone else posting money or property with the court. There are four types of bonds: personal recognizance bond, cash bond, ten-percent bond, and a surety bond. A personal recognizance bond is the only type of bond in which the defendant is released by pledging only his or her word to return to court.

Burden of Proof

The duty to establish facts in a dispute. In civil matters, this burden may be a "preponderance of the evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence".


The number of cases in a specific catagory (i.e. open, closed, assigned to a judge, etc.).

Cash Bond

A payment of a specific amount of money to guarantee future support payments will be made.

Certified Copy

A copy of an order signed and certified as an exact true copy by the officer of the court having possession of the original order.

Change of Venue

Transfer or removal of a case to a court of another geographical location and jurisdiction, either because it should have been there in the first place, or for the convenience of the parties or witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be had in the original court location.

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.

Child Abuse/Neglect

Mistreatment of a minor by an adult legally responsible for the minor.

Child Born Out-of-Wedlock

A child born to a woman who was not married from the conception to the date of birth, or a child which the court has determined to have been born or conceived during a marriage, but is not the husband's child.

Child Support

Payment of money for a child in a divorce, paternity, or family support act proceeding. Support includes health care, and may include educational and child care expenses.

Child Support Formula

Factors considered by the Friend of the Court and the Prosecuting Attorney when making a recommendation, and by the Family Division when making a determination for an appropriate amount of child support. Both parents' incomes are considered under the formula.

Child Support Guidelines

See Child Support Formula.

Circuit Division

The trial court in Michigan which hears many types of cases. Domestic relations actions are tried in the family division of this court.


The act of sending a person to jail, pursuant to a court order.


The original pleading in a domestic relations matter. In this pleading, the plaintiff alleges the basis for the suit and states the remedy requested.


A method of alternative Dispute Resolution utilized by many Friend of the Court offices. The conciliator attempts to assist parties in resolving disputes, but may prepare a recommendation if the parties are not able to reach agreement on issues. See Mediation.

Contempt of Court Hearing

Also known as a "show cause" hearing. A court hearing in which the person alleged to be in violation of the court order has the opportunity to show good cause why (s)he did not comply.


An attorney.


Care and keeping of anything or anyone, i.e., children in a domestic relations action.


The person against whom a lawsuit is started or a crime charged.


In regards to child support, an amount owed but not paid.(See Average).

Department of Social Services

Now known as the Family Independence Agency.


A court order terminating a particular case.

District Division

All criminal cases are started in the district division. The district division hears all misdemeanors and civil cases under $25,000, including small claims.


The legal termination of a marriage.


A list of cases set for a hearing by a court on a specific day. The Court prepares court dockets for cases involving traffic and other violations.

Domestic Relations Action

Any action involving families. Divorce, paternity and family support actions are all considered domestic relations actions.


The permanent home to which a person, when absent, always intends to return. (See Residence).


An abbreviation for the Michigan Department of Social Services. Now known as the Family Independence Agency.


The act by which one attains adulthood. Emancipation may occur when a child reaches the age of majority, marries, enters military service, or by court order.


Activity engaged in by the Friend of the Court to bring an alleged violator of a court order into compliance.


Proof allowed at a hearing. Evidence may be presented through testimony of witnesses and by documents, records and other material.

Ex Parte

On the request of one party only, without notice to any other party.

Ex Parte Order

An order made by the court upon the request of one party to an action without prior notice to the other party.

Fair Consideration

A payment which represents the value of the property or service transferred.

Family Division

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.

Family Independence Agency

The agency providing public assistance to families. Includes the Office of Child Support. Formerly known as the Michigan Department of Social Services.


A charged fixed by law for services.


A crime punishable by more one year in state prison. Examples of felonies include homicide, kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, and armed robbery.


An abbreviation for the Family Independence Agency.


To put in the records of the court.


The act of recording the various legal documents regarding a suit with the clerk of the court.


Financial Independence Program. Michigan's name for the program which replaced Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC or ADC). The federal government equivalent is now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Friend of the Court

- 1. An office of the family division; investigates and makes recommendations to the court in domestic relations actions involving minor children; enforces orders of the court; collects, records and disburses support payments.

2. A person; the director of the office.


A court order to take part of a person's wages or other money owed to him/her before (s)he receives the money, because of an unpaid debt owed a creditor.


The person who has a legal duty and power to take care of another person who by age, or incompetence, is unable to care for him/herself.

Guardian Ad Litem

A person appointed by the court during the course of a litigation for the purpose of protecting the interests of an infant or incompetent adult.


A statement made outside of the hearing. Most hearsay evidence is not allowed as evidence in court.

Inactive Case

A case for which the Friend of the Court is no longer responsible for initiating enforcement, or other, services. May also be called a "closed case". A criminal case with an active bench warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

Income Withholding Order

An order of the court. It directs an employer, or source of income, to withhold a fixed amount and send that amount to the court for purposes of support or the payment of fines and costs.

Interstate Income Withholding Order

An order entered to secure payment of support through an employer in another State.

Joint Custody

An order of the family division which provides: 1. Parents will share in major decisions affecting their children (joint legal custody). 2. Children will live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time (joint physical custody).


The decision of a court.

Judicial Tenure Commission

The panel which reviews and investigates complaints against judges, and makes recommendations to the Supreme Court for discipline or removal, if appropriate.


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.


Law Enforcement Information Network. A computer system containing files on wanted persons, convictions and various court orders. This network is maintained by the Michigan State Police and links all criminal justice agencies in the United Stattes, Canada and some other countries.


A claim against real or personal property. The owner cannot sell the property without first paying the debt. It also subjects the property to be seizure and sale.


A party to a legal action.


The process of resolving a dispute in court.


(1) A process parties can use to reach their own agreements without going to court. (2) Binding Mediation - A procedure used to determine a disputed matter. The Mediator's decision is binding upon parties. See Arbitration.


A person under the age of 18 years.


A less serious type of crime, in which the maximum punishment is no more than one year in jail. Examples of misdemeanors include retail fraud (shoplifting), larceny under $100, assault and battery.

Mutual Agreement

An arrangement reached by parties on their own free will without duress or coercion.


A person who has a duty to do something. A support obligor is the person responsible for paying support.

Office of Child Support

The office within the Family Independence Agency that administers Federal child support program funds, coordinates location of absent parents and manages the process for income tax intercepts. This office may also initiate complaints under the Paternity Act and the Family Support Act.


A decision of the court made in writing.

Order for Discharge

A written directive from the court that discharges the person from probation. This petition is prepared if the client has obeyed all the conditions of probation.

Order to Show Cause

A request filed by a probation officer with the sentencing judge when a defendant has violated or not obeyed a condition of probation once signed by the judge. The defendant is ordered to come to court.


A person legally involved in a particular action.

Paternity Suit

An action to prove who is the father of a child born to parents who are not married to one another.


The person, or agency, to whom support is sent. Also known as recipient.


The person who is ordered to remit support.


A formal written request made to the court requesting some type of action.


The person who originally files the action.


A defendant's response to a criminal charge, either guilty, not guilty, or no contest (nolo contendere). A no contest plea is treated the same as a guilty plea, except the defendant does not have to admit guilt.


Papers filed by parties in a lawsuit stating claims against each other, or his/her defenses to those claims.

Power of Attorney

A written instrument appointing and authorizing a person to act in the place of another as agent or substitute.

Preliminary Examination

A hearing before a district division judge following arraignment at which the judge must determine if a crime was committed and whether sufficient evidence had been presented that the defendant committed the crime. Preliminary exams are held in felony cases.

Pretrial Conference

Informal hearing between the judge and attorneys(and sometimes parties) to discuss any matters that can be resolved prior to a court hearing.

Pro Per

A person who represents himself or herself in court without an attorney. Also known as Pro Se.

Probate Division

The court which handles wills, estates, and commitment of mentally ill persons.


Allowing a defendant convicted of a crime to remain out of jail or prison as long as they fulfill certain conditions. Persons on probation are supervised by probation officers. The 46th Circuit Trial Court has its own probation division in the misdemeanor division of the Court.

Probation Order

An official written directive from the court ordering that a defendant in a criminal case is sentenced to a term of probation. This document is prepared by a court clerk, signed by both the judge and the defendant, and includes all legal conditions, fines, costs, and other special conditions.


A person or agency to whom support is paid. Also known as payee.


When parties to a domestic relations actions are attempting to work out his/her differences and remain as a family unit.


A person who holds hearings, takes testimony and makes recommendations for orders to the court.

Release of Information

A form signed by a defendant authorizing a probation officer to legally obtain information about the defendant.


The place where one presently lives.


An abbreviation for Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act. Pertains to non-support actions against a parent in another state. Replaced by the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).


Final step on the legal process, in which a penalty is applied by a judge for someone who is convicted of or plead guilty to a crime.

Show Cause Hearing

A court hearing which is held so that a person can present reasons why (s)he should not be considered in violation of a specific court order. Also known as a Contempt of Court Hearing.

Sole Custody

An order of the court which provides that children reside with one parent, and that parent is responsible for all decisions affecting them.

Statute of Limitations

In civil matters, the time limit on the right to seek relief in court for damages.


Laws of the State of Michigan enacted by the Legislature.


A mutual agreement between parties or his/her attorneys which resolves a particular issue.


A notice given to a party that a court action has been started against them.

Support Order

An order issued by the family division ordering the payment of money for children or spouse in a domestic relations action.

Supreme Court

The court of last resort in Michigan, the highest appeals court in the state.


A penalty assessed on support which is not paid timely.


Held up or put on the shelf; temporarily stopped.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Replaced Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC or ADC). In Michigan, known as Financial Independence Program (FIP).


The statement of a witness under oath which is given as evidence.


A word for word typed record of proceedings at a hearing.

Travel Permit

A legal document giving a person on probation permission to travel to another state during his or her probation period. This permit will list specific dates and locations of travel that the court has allowed.


An abbreviation for "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act." Pertains to support actions where the parents do not live in the same state.


The county in which proceedings may be commenced. Also, see Change of Venue.

Visitation Order

An order that establishes time between the children and the parent with whom (s)he do not primarily reside. Also known as a “parenting time order”.


To give up a right, claim or privilege.


An order issued by a judge which allows police to arrest a person. (See Bench Warrant).

Warrant of Arrest

An order issued by a judge or magistrate to a police officer requiring the arrest of the person named in the warrant.


One who testifies to what (s)he has seen, heard or otherwise observed.