Superior Court of Contra Costa County

Virtual Self-Help Law Center

- Glossary of Legal Terms -


Below are some words or legal phrases that you may come across in this site. In the legal glossary you can:

  • You can read the definitions, or

  • In some cases, there is a link that looks like this: Show Me | Tell Me.

    • Click the 'Show Me' link to see a short video clip about this subject, or click the 'Tell Me' link to hear a short audio clip about the subject.

The Superior Court in Sacramento has prepared legal glossaries in 12 languages. To view these, click here.

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Glossary F

Fair housing organizations: City or county organizations that help renters resolve housing discrimination problems.

False Imprisonment: The restraint of a person in a bounded area without justification or consent. It applies to private law as well as governmental detention.

Family Code: The body of law dealing with marriage, registered domestic partnerships, divorce, adoption, child custody and support, and other domestic-relations issues.

Family court: A court that hears family matters, like divorce ("dissolution"), legal separation of spouses, annulment of marriage or domestic partnerships, parentage, child custody and support, and domestic violence petitions.

Family law case: A divorce, legal separation or annulment, dissolution of a domestic partnership registration, domestic violence restraining order, or parentage cases are among those called a "family law case."

Family Law Facilitator: In California, a licensed attorney appointed by the court to assist self-represented persons with issues of child support, spousal or partner support, and health insurance.

Family support: An agreement between the parents, or an order or judgment, that combines child support and spousal or partner support without designating the amount to be paid for child support and the amount to be paid for spousal or partner support.

Fee: A specific amount of money that's paid in exchange for a service, such as filing a court paper.

Fee waiver: Permission not to pay the court's filing fees. People with very low income can ask the court clerk for a fee waiver form.

Felony: A serious crime that can be punished by more than 1 year in prison or by death. (Compare infraction, misdemeanor)

File: When a person officially gives a paper to a court clerk and that paper becomes part of the record of a case.

Filed-stamped: (See endorsed-filed copies)

Filing a form: A court form is "filed" only when the court clerk stamps it "Filed." You can give your court forms to the clerk by mail or in person.

Man filing a form

Filing fees: Money you pay to the court clerk to accept (or "file") court papers and start a civil case.

Finding: When a judicial officer or jury says something is a fact.

Fine: The money a person must pay as punishment for doing something illegal or for not doing something they were supposed to do.

Fictitious Business Name: A name, other than the business owner's true name, under which the business operates.

Fiduciary: A person that acts for another person's benefit, like a trustee. It can also be an adjective and mean someting that is based on a trust or confidence. (See also trustee)

Forfeiture: When a person must give up money or property because they didn't meet a legal obligation.

Fraud: Deceiving someone on purpose in a way that finacially hurts others.