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


A workplace savings plan that lets employees invest a portion of their paycheck before taxes are taken out; employers will often match a portion of the employee's contribution.


A workplace savings plan that is very similar to a 401k, except it is only offered to employees of non-profit companies or tax-exempt organizations like schools, hospitals, or religious groups.


A Terms


Acceptance of service

A written acknowledgment that documents have been delivered


The section of a document where an official—usually a notary public—verifies both that (1) the person who signs the document is known to the official or has presented proof of identity and (2) the person who signs the document confirms having actually signed the document.

Ad hoc lawyer

A private lawyer assigned by the court when the public defender and contractual counsel have conflicts. Ad hoc lawyers are paid an hourly rate by the defender general at the end of the case.


A court's judgment on a matter in controversy that has been brought before the court. For example, a child is said to be an adjudicated delinquent when the judge has found the child delinquent based on evidence presented to the juvenile court.

Administrator (probate)

A person appointed by the court to settle the estate of someone who died without a valid will.


A written statement made under oath and signed in the presence of someone who has the authority to administer an oath (for example, a notary public).


In the context of an appeal, to affirm means that the reviewing court concludes that the lower court properly decided the case. In the context of giving testimony or signing a document, to affirm means to state as a fact.

Affirmative defense

If you make an affirmative defense, you may concede that you committed the alleged acts but prove other facts that, under the law, either justify or excuse your otherwise wrongful actions or otherwise overcome the plaintiff's claim.


Something declared or asserted to be true, especially in a legal proceeding. In a juvenile case, an allegation is a statement made by the state’s attorney in the petition that must be proven in order to find a juvenile either delinquent or in need of care or supervision.


A document in which the person being sued either admits or denies the suing party's allegations and asserts any available defenses.


A request that a higher court review a lower court's decision.


The party to an appeal who asked for the appeal.


Pertaining to a court that can hear a review (appeal) of a lower court's decision.


The party to an appeal who did not ask for the appeal.

Assistant attorney general

A lawyer employed by the Attorney General's Office.

Attorney general

The chief law enforcement officer in the state. The attorney general is charged with representing the state in all matters in which the state is a party or has an interest.

Back to top

B Terms


A person who will receive assets from an estate or a trust.


A violation of a duty or an obligation that was established in a contract or other agreement.


A written statement filed in an appeal explaining why the lower court's decision was correct or incorrect.

Burden of proof

A party's duty to prove or disprove a disputed fact. In criminal cases the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution, which must demonstrate that defendants are guilty before juries may convict them. In civil cases the plaintiff is normally charged with the burden of proof.

Back to top

C Terms

Capital assets

Property which cannot be easily converted to cash and which is usually held for a long period, like buildings, equipment or machinery

Care provider

A person other than a parent, guardian, or custodian who is providing a child with routine daily care but to whom custody rights have not been transferred by a court.

Case plan

A document generally prepared by the Department for Children and Families indicating the long-term plan and goals for a juvenile.

Certified copy

A copy of a paper that has been signed and certified as a true copy by the office to whose custody the original is entrusted.


The abuse/neglect case of a child in need of care or supervision.


In criminal law a charge is the specific crime that law enforcement accuses the defendant of committing. In jury trials the charge is the set of verbal instructions the judge gives to the jurors after the jurors have heard evidence and before they begin deliberations. In other contexts a charge may be a fee for services.


An individual who is under the age of 18 and meets the statutory definitions of a child in 33 V.S.A. § 5102(2) and (3).

Child Benefits Unit

A division of the Department for Children and Families that helps the Office of Child Support get child support from parents whose children are in state custody.

Child support maintenance supplement

A sum of money awarded by the Court to the custodial parent to correct any disparity in the financial circumstances of the parties if the court finds that the disparity has resulted or will result in a lower standard of living for the child than the child would have if living with the noncustodial parent.

Child support guidelines

A formula which reflects the percent of combined available income which parents living in the same household in VT ordinarily spend on their children. The rule is based on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income after the separation of their parents as they would receive if their parents were living together in one household.

Child support order

An order requiring a parent or parents to pay child support to the other parent, a guardian, or state agency.


Child in need of care or supervision. This might be a child who has been abandoned or abused by a parent, guardian, or custodian; a child who is neglected, meaning without proper parental care or subsistence, education, medical, or other care necessary for the child's well-being; a child who is without or beyond the control of parents, guardians, or other custodians; or a child who is habitually and without justification truant from compulsory school attendance.


A CHINS (child in need of care or supervision) unmanageable case. A child who is without or beyond the control of his parents, guardian or other custodian.


In juvenile proceedings a citation is the document a police agency gives to the juvenile with the date and time the juvenile should appear before the family division judge for a preliminary hearing (33 V.S.A. § 5221). In the criminal division a citation is a directive to appear in court on a specified date at a specified time. In other contexts a citation is a reference to a source of law, such as a statute, a constitution, a regulation, or a case.


A demand or request for something that ones believes they are due, such as property, money, or a legal remedy.


A document that modifies some term(s) of a will without revoking the remaining terms.


An adult family member or person living as a spouse in the same household with someone who is applying for public defender services or a waiver of fees.


A court document in which a person filing a lawsuit states who is being sued, why, and what relief the complainant wants.

Conditional custody order

Temporary order issued by the court giving legal custody of a child to a parent, guardian, relative, or person with a significant relationship with the child subject to such conditions and limitations as the court may deem necessary to provide for the safety and welfare of the child.

Conditions of release

A list of conditions that a juvenile or defendant must abide by until a case ends.

Conflict counsel

An attorney under contract with the state to represent someone when the public defender has a conflict or is already representing another party in the case.


A willful disregard or disobedience of the court's order or of a public authority.


To call into question or to challenge; to deny an adverse claim or assert a defense to it in a court proceeding.


A request made by a party to postpone a scheduled hearing.


A statement that says the court was in session and did its business at a certain place at a certain time.


An amount a party is ordered to pay before the public defender is assigned.


A claim asserted by a defendant against the plaintiff.

Court order

A legally binding ruling issued by a magistrate, judge, or properly empowered administrative officer.


A person or entity to whom money is owed. In the context of probate proceedings, a person or entity filing a claim against an estate.

Custodial parent

Parent who has the right and responsibility to provide routine daily care and control of the child.


A person other than a parent or legal guardian to whom legal custody of a child has been given by order of a Vermont family or probate court or a similar court in another jurisdiction.


Actual care and control of a child.

Custody and release

Action of a law enforcement officer taking control of a child and releasing the child to the care of a court, parent, or guardian.

Back to top

D Terms


The Department for Children and Families. The department is part of the Agency of Human Services, which offers assistance, care, and services to families. DCF provides substitute care for children whose families are unable to give them the necessary care and protection.


A person who has died.


A court's conclusion after applying governing law to the facts as determined by a jury or judge.

Decree of distribution

A court order setting forth how assets are to be distributed.

Default judgment

An official decision that a court issues in favor of the claimant because the other party failed to answer the complaint or take some other required step.


The person, state entity, or business accused or sued in a court case (by the plaintiff).

Defined benefit plan

A type of pension plan in which an employer promises a specified monthly benefit upon retirement; the amount is usually predetermined by a formula based on earnings history and length of service and/or age

Defined contribution plan

A type of retirement plan in which the employer, employee, or both make contributions on a regular basis. The contributions are then invested and any returns credited to the individual's account.

Delinquent act

An act that if committed by an adult would be designated a crime under the laws of this state or of another state if the act occurred there or under federal law.

Delinquent child

Any child who, as determined by a court, committed a delinquent act and is still subject to the jurisdiction of the court.

Detention order

A court order detaining a juvenile for violating a condition of probation.


When the court orders a child support payment different from the presumptive amount determined pursuant to the child support guidelines.


A person who receives a gift of real property by a will.


A release from a court-ordered obligation; to cancel or vacate a court order or decision.


The procedures available to a party to a lawsuit to learn relevant facts that are known to other parties or witnesses, in order to enable the party to prepare for trial. It can be oral, depositions, or written interrogatories.

Disposition case plan

A report prepared by a Department for Children and Families social worker that contains information about a child’s background, the resources available in the community, a treatment plan, and goals of treatment.

Disposition hearing

After the merits hearing, the disposition hearing decides a plan for a child, including a permanency goal. At this hearing testimony or evidence may be presented by the parties and a disposition plan is submitted by the Department for Children and Families for the court’s consideration. The judge determines the appropriate care, treatment, or supervision for a child found to be delinquent or in need of care or supervision and issues a disposition order.

Disposition order

A court order determining the appropriate care, treatment, or supervision for a child found to be delinquent, in need of care or supervision, or under youthful offender status.


Court diversion is a voluntary, confidential alternative to the formal court process for certain defendants and juvenile offenders. Diversion is based on the restorative justice process designed to heal, as much as possible, the harm caused by crime in our community. Cases are referred on an individual basis by the state’s attorney. Offenders who accept referrals to court diversion must be willing to accept responsibility for their acts and make amends. The process involves a board of citizens who meet with the juveniles and design a contract for them to follow. A contract might include an apology to the victim, volunteer work and/or restitution. Upon completion of diversion, the state dismisses the matter. If the offender does not complete the program, the case is returned to court for further proceedings.


A formal record in which a judge or court clerk briefly notes all the proceedings and filings in a court case. A docket may also refer to a specific type of court case, such as the "criminal docket".

Docket number

The identifier that a court clerk assigns to a case to associate all documents and activities pertaining to that case.

Docket sheet

A written list of all the proceedings in court in a particular case.

Back to top

E Terms

Emergency care order

In delinquency cases the court may issue an emergency care order to place a juvenile in the custody of the Department for Children and Families (DCF) temporarily when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child committed a delinquent act and must be removed from the current home for the child's immediate welfare or the protection of the community or both. In a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS) case, a court may issue an emergency care order to place a juvenile in DCF custody temporarily when the court determines that the child's continued residence in the home is contrary to the child's welfare.

Entry order

A docket entry of verbal orders the judge states on the record.


The sum of a person's assets less all liabilities.


A court order requiring that someone be examined for attributes such as competence.


The act or process of legally depriving a person of something, usually land or rental property.


Any kind of proof legally presented at a hearing or trial and accepted by the court. A party can introduce evidence in the form of testimony from a witness, a document, or an exhibit.

Excusable neglect

A valid excuse or reason for a party to fail to take required action (like filing an answer to a complaint) on time.


A person appointed by the court to settle the estate of someone who died with a will.


A document, record, or other object formally introduced as evidence in court.

Ex parte

Ex parte may refer to: (1) hearings or motions held at the request of or with the participation of only one party; (2) orders issued after the court has heard from one party but before the court has had an opportunity to hear from the other party; or (3) contact between a judge and a party or the party's representative outside the presence of the other party.


A request from an offender with a prior criminal conviction asking the court to seal the records of that earlier case and to prevent the release of information regarding that earlier case.

Back to top

F Terms

Family Services Division

The Division of Family Services is part of the Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families. It is Vermont's child welfare and youth justice agency. It is responsible for child protective services, supervision of juvenile probationers, adoption services, and services for youth (ages 15 to 21) who are transitioning into adulthood.


A person who has a legal or ethical relationship of trust with someone else. In probate court a fiduciary is someone appointed by the court to administer an estate.


To provide documents to the court.

Final order

A written decision or judgment of the court that disposes of all the issue in a case and results in da decision for one of the parties.

Back to top

G Terms


A legal proceeding under which part of a person's wages or assets are withheld for payment of a debt.


A person who has the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person.

Guardian ad litem

A court-appointed volunteer who pursues the best interests of children involved in court proceedings.


The legal status that permits an individual (the guardian) to make decisions on behalf of another person.

Guideline amount

The “guideline amount” is based on a formula. See also child support guidelines


Back to top

H Terms


A person who by law is eligible to receive property owned by someone who died without a will.

Home study

A professional investigation of each parent's living situation so the court can determine parental rights and responsibilities as well as parent-child contact and guardianship suitability.

Back to top

I Terms

Imputed income

The benefit you receive from the use of your own property, the performance of your services, or the consumption of self-produced goods and services.
When used in the child support context: The potential income of a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed.

In forma pauperis

Lacking the ability to pay all or part of the cost of litigation. A court may grant in forma pauperis status to someone who cannot pay filing fees or the cost of serving papers on another party. Sometimes abbreviated to IFP.

Interested persons

People who must receive notice of various matters during the administration of an estate.


Written questions served as part of the discovery process that must be answered in writing, under oath, and by a certain date.

Interstate compact

An agreement between two or more states.


The status of the estate of someone who died without a valid will.


An accounting of all assets in an estate.

Back to top

J Terms


A court's decision regarding the rights and responsibilities of parties in a case.

Judgment lien

A lien that attaches to your property without your agreement. It is created when someone wins a lawsuit against you and then records the judgment against your property.


Jurisdiction refers to the power and authority of a particular court to hear and decide certain kinds of cases.

Back to top

L Terms


Person named in a will to receive personal property.

Limited appearance

Short-term assistance by an attorney to a person who is representing themselves in court; the assistance is for a specific purpose, such as filing a complaint or a motion

Listed crimes

A group of serious crimes as defined at 13 V.S.A. § 5301(7).

Living separate and apart

Parties living in separate homes and no longer having sexual relations with each other, or parties living separately under the same roof and no longer having sexual relations with each other.

Back to top

M Terms


A judicial officer who determines child support cases (including UIFSA and contempt cases), determines parentage, establishes temporary parental rights and responsibilities and parent-child contact orders, establishes, modifies, and enforces temporary spousal maintenance orders, and modifies and/or enforces parent-child contact orders.

Means tested

A determination of whether an individual or family is eligible for government assistance, based upon whether the individual or family possesses the means to do without that help.


A process in which a neutral third party helps people communicate and negotiate with each other.

Merits hearing

In juvenile cases, including delinquency cases, a hearing at which the state has to establish that a child is in need of care and supervision. 33 V.S.A. § 5315.

Model order

An example of a decision or judgment designed for the court to follow or imitate


A document asking the court to take an action.

Motion for judgment on the pleadings

A party's request that the court rule in its favor based on the documents on file, without accepting evidence.

Motion for summary judgment

A request that the court enter judgment without a trial because the evidence is insufficient to support a verdict in the other party's favor.

Back to top

N Terms

Nisi period

A 90-day waiting period before a divorce or civil union dissolution decree becomes final. During the nisi period parties may ask the court to change an order. After the period expires, the order becomes final if no party has requested any changes to the order, and all terms in the order except those pertaining to the parties' minor children and spousal maintenance are final and cannot be relitigated or changed by the court or parties. The nisi period can be shortened on request of the parties and approval of the judge.

No fault divorce

When a divorce is granted without any determination that a party is blame-worthy; spouses must live separate and apart for at least six consecutive months and not likely to get back together

Noncustodial parent

A parent who does not have the right and responsibility to provide the routine daily care and control of the child.

No-stalking order

Sometimes called a restraining order or a protection order, intended to protect a person from abuse or harm.

Notary public

A person who is legally authorized to administer oaths and verify that someone has completed an affidavit under oath.

Notice of appeal

The document that a party files to begin an appeal.

Notice of appearance

Formal written notice from a lawyer that the lawyer is representing a party.

Back to top

O Terms


A solemn promise that a statement is true. If someone makes a statement under oath and knows it is false, that person commits perjury. Written documents as well as spoken testimony may be made under oath.


In the context of child support, the person, agency, or other institution to whom child support is owed.


In the context of child support, the person who must pay child support.

Office of Child Support

An office within the Department for Children and Families which provides services to any litigant requesting child support services. These services can include filing for establishment, modification, and enforcement of child support. OCS provides assistance with locating noncustodial parents or alleged fathers. OCS is responsible for collecting and distributing child support money.


A court's formal statement explaining why the court reached its decision.


A written direction issued by a court.

Back to top

P Terms


The legal determination of who is the child’s father. Parentage must be established before a court can decide issues regarding parental rights and responsibilities and parent-child contact, and before child support or medical support can be ordered.

Parental rights and responsibilities

This phrase refers to parents making decisions affecting their children. It has two components. "Legal responsibility" refers to the right and responsibility of parents to determine and control matters regarding a child's welfare and upbringing on issues such as education, nonemergency medical and dental care, religion, and travel. "Physical responsibility" refers to the right and responsibility of parents to determine and control matters of routine daily care of the children. Both legal and physical parental rights and responsibilities may be held solely by one parent, shared by the parents, or divided. Formerly known as custody.

Parent-child contact

Time that children will spend with their non-residential parent. Formerly known as visitation.


A person who has appeared in court in regard to an action and whose rights are subject to the court's jurisdiction.


Remaining undecided or awaiting decision.


The status of a child who is no longer under the Family Division's jurisdiction because the child has turned 18 years old or because the child is no longer in the custody of the Department for Children and Families due to reunification, adoption, or permanent guardianship.

Permanency hearing

A hearing in which a judge determines where a child should live based on the best interests of the child. Possible outcomes include returning the child to a parent, guardian, or relative; continuing to keep the child in foster care; or starting proceedings to terminate parental rights so that the child is eligible for adoption.

Permanent guardianship

When circumstances prevent a family division judge from returning a child to the care of the parents, a permanent guardianship allows a child to be placed in a stable and nurturing home until the child turns 18. The creation of a permanent guardianship offers the additional benefit of permitting continued contact between a child and the child's parents.

Personal property

All property other than real estate.


A formal written request to the court that asks either the court or another party to take or not take a specific action.


The party who files a petition asking a court to do something.


The person, state entity, or business filing a lawsuit against a party (the defendant).


Either (1) statements or claims describing a plaintiff’s reason for action or a defendant’s grounds for defense or (2) the process by which parties file things in court, including documents that start a case, responses to previously filed papers, and counterclaims.


A principle or rule established in an earlier case that binds or persuades courts when they decide later cases with similar facts.

Predicate offense

An offense where the law imposes increasingly harsher penalties for later convictions on the same offense. The most common example is driving under the influence (DUI). The penalty for a second DUI conviction is harsher than the penalty for a first DUI conviction.

Preliminary hearing

A hearing in which the parties appear before the court to admit or deny allegations contained in a petition or complaint.

Probable cause

A finding by the judge that there is reason to believe that a crime or a delinquent act has occurred and that the named juvenile or defendant committed the act.


A legal process that take place after someone dies.

Probation certificate

In juvenile proceedings a list of conditions that a juvenile must complete to satisfy the case plan adopted at a disposition hearing.

Probation discharge summary

A document filed with the court upon completion of probation.

Pro bono

Services donated for the public good, without expectation of payment. A lawyer who does pro bono work does not charge the client for those services.

Proof of Service

Proof that you have delivered documents to the other party in your case. 

Pro se

Representing yourself in court without a lawyer. Also known as "self-represented."

Protective order

An order restraining or otherwise controlling the conduct of another person if the court finds that such conduct is or might be detrimental or harmful to a child.

Protective supervision

The authority a court grants to the Department for Children and Families in a juvenile case to take reasonable steps to monitor compliance with the court's conditional custody order, including unannounced visits to the home where the child lives.

Public Assistance Benefits

The Economic Services Division of the Department for Children and Families Public provides cash benefits for children whose parent(s) or caretaker(s) lack the necessary means to provide for their basic needs.

Public defender

A lawyer paid by the state to represent people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Putative father

The person alleged to be but not yet legally declared the father of a child. Also referred to as the “alleged father.”

Back to top

R Terms

Real property


Reasonable efforts

The Department for Children and Families (DCF) must make reasonable efforts to prevent a child's unnecessary removal from the child's home and later to finalize a permanency plan for the child. A judge must decide whether DCF's efforts were reasonable.


An amount a party is ordered to pay for a public defender's services.


The redress or assistance requested by or awarded to a plaintiff or petitioner by the court.

Rent escrow

In any eviction action you can be ordered to pay rent into court while your court case is awaiting a final decision. This is called rent escrow.


Allowing parties to introduce new evidence in a case or to have a new trial.

Request to find

To ask that a judge issue a written determination of the facts after a trial.

Residual parental rights

The rights and responsibilities a parent retains after a court transfers legal custody of the child to someone else. These include the right to reasonable contact with the child, the responsibility for support, and the right to consent to an adoption.


A party who appears in response to a case that began when a petitioner filed a petition.


A requirement that a defendant or juvenile compensate a victim or plaintiff for a loss.

Restorative justice panel

A group of volunteers who meet with victims and offenders and discuss how the offender's low-level criminal conduct affected the victim and the community and to discuss how the offender can repair the harm caused by those acts.

Return of service

A statement filed by one party indicating that the party served a complaint or other document on another party.


An annulment, cancellation, or reversal. An invalidation of a will.


An authoritative decision, especially one made by a judge.

Back to top

S Terms

Safe at Home program

A voluntary program administered by the office of the Vermont secretary of state that provides participants, who have often experienced violence from a partner, with a substitute mailing address to be used as their legal residence, work, and/or school address.



Sealing of records

A procedure that limits what information a court will release in response to a request for records. When a court seals the records of a particular case, courts cannot furnish information about the case except in very limited circumstances.


Providing a named party with the pleadings (the summons and complaint or a petition) and putting that party on notice that a court will decide a matter affecting that party's rights or responsibilities.

Spousal maintenance

A court-ordered payment that a spouse (or former spouse) makes to the other to financially support them while they are separated or divorced. The payment can be either rehabilitative or permanent in nature. The recipient must show they lack sufficient income, property, or both to provide for their reasonable needs AND that they are unable to support themselves through appropriate employment at the standard of living established during the marriage or civil union. Also known as alimony.

State's attorney

The locally elected lawyer who represents the interests of the state of Vermont.

Status conference

A proceeding in which the court and the parties discuss how to proceed with any motions that have been filed or the status of a case. A status conference helps the court gather more information about a case and might result in the court's deciding unresolved issues.


A law enacted by a legislature. All of Vermont's statutes are published in the Vermont Statutes Annotated (V.S.A.). Statutes are grouped together in titles and chapters, and each individual statute is assigned a section number. In a citation (cite) to a statute, such as 33 V.S.A. § 5201, the number of the title (here, 33) appears before "V.S.A." and the number of the section (5201) appears after the section symbol (§).


An agreement between two or more parties.


A document ordering an individual to appear at a hearing or to produce a requested document.


monetary assistance by the government to help with costs


A notice from the court that a lawsuit has begun or an order requiring someone to appear in court.


One who guarantees that someone else will perform a duty. In the context of probate proceedings, a person or corporation that guarantees that a fiduciary will administer an estate properly.

Back to top

T Terms

Temporary care orders

Orders that temporarily determine the custody of a juvenile and that are crafted to protect the safety and welfare of the juvenile and the community.

Temporary order

A written decision or judgment of the court lasting for a limited period of time; not permanent


A tenant's right to live in a specific property.

Termination of parental rights

An order ending a parent's legal rights and responsibilities in relation to a child, including the right to visit the child and the responsibility to support the child.


The status of the estate of someone who died with a valid will.

Third party

A person or entity other than the two parties involved in a dispute.

Third-party claim

A defendant in an existing case may file a third-party claim against someone other than the plaintiff because the outcome of the case between the plaintiff and the defendant will affect the rights or responsibilities of that third party.


A written record of what was said during a hearing or a trial.

Transfer of venue

Removing a case from one court's docket and assigning it to another court's docket.

Trustee process against earnings

A procedure that authorizes the court to order an employer to withhold a reasonable amount of money from someone's wages to pay a court judgment.

Back to top

V Terms

Violation of probation

A written complaint that alleges an offender did not comply with a condition of probation.

Back to top

W Terms

Waiver of service

The act of receiving a summons or order without having a law enforcement officer serve the document.


A document issued by a legal or government official authorizing the police to make an arrest, search premises, or carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice.

Writ of execution

A court document, addressed to a sheriff and issued after judgment, directing the sheriff to collect money or other goods from the defendant.

Writ of possession

A written order from the court issued to recover the possession of land or property.

Back to top

Y Terms

Youthful offender

An individual up to 21 years old who has committed an offense and who a court determines: (1) does not pose a threat to public safety; (2) is willing to participate in treatment or rehabilitation; and (3) can access services offered in the juvenile court system and/or the Department for Children and Families.