You will find commonly used legal terms in this glossary. You can click on the letter to jump to the words that begin with that letter or scroll down the page.


Case Law

The law based on past decisions by judges. Case law reflects how the courts interpret laws. In common law legal systems, judges are required to follow decisions of other judges from higher courts in their own province as well as the Supreme Court of Canada.

Causal connection

When one thing makes another thing happen.

Certificate of Divorce

A document that proves the date of your divorce.

Certified true copy

Document guaranteed to be an exact copy of an original document.


A name for a Supreme Court courtroom where applications (not trials) are heard.

Chambers Application

Pre-trial matter heard before a judge or master of the court.

Change of Venue

If the court is satisfied that it is expedient to the ends of justice and/or an accused may not have a fair trial in the original venue (usually the courthouse nearest to where the alleged incident occurred), then upon application the Court may order that the trial be moved to another location. Often, pre-trial publicity will be advanced as a reason to change the venue.


The charge is the particular criminal offence alleged to have been committed by an accused which is contained on a sworn Information. The person remains charged with the offence until either conviction or acquittal or until the charges are stayed by Crown counsel.

Charge Approval

The Crown Counsel's decision on whether or not to lay charges.

Charge to The Jury

During a Supreme Court judge and jury trial, the charge to the jury is the instructions given to the jury by the judge which summarize the case and explain the law, enabling the jury to apply the law to the facts of the case.

Chief Judge/Justice

Each level of Court has a Chief Judge or Justice. They are responsible for the judicial administration of their respective courts.


In BC, a person under the age of 19.

Child Support

Child support is the legal right of a child to receive financial support from his or her parents. That right exists whether or not the child's parents were ever married and whether or not they ever lived together. Step parents may also be required to pay Child Support. See also In Loco Parentis and Child Support Guidelines.

Child Support Guidelines

The Child Support Guidelines are the rules for calculating the amount one parent must pay to the other parent to help support their child or children. The Guidelines apply to all parents who are not together - whether they were married, lived in an opposite-sex or same-sex common-law relationship, or never lived together at all. The Guidelines also apply to step-parents who meet the legal requirements for being responsible to pay child support. The guidelines include a special rule for calculating the amount a step-parent must pay.

Child/Children of the Marriage

Someone who is less than 19 years old (the age of majority in BC), or a child who is 19 and older if the child cannot support him- or herself.

Civil Law

Laws that deal with the rights of private individuals or organizations. Civil cases deal with unresolved conflicts or disputes between individuals or groups.


A demand for something somebody has a right to or owns.


The person who starts the family law action by filing a Notice of Family Claim. Under the old Supreme Court rules, the person who started the action was called the Plaintiff.

Closing Argument

Argument made by a party to a decision-maker at a hearing after the parties have presented their evidence. In its closing argument, a party argues how the law and the evidence show that it is right and the other party is wrong. The party also states the decision it would like the tribunal to make.

Collaborative Law

In collaborative family law, a person, their lawyer, and their former spouse and their lawyer, make a formal commitment to resolve disagreements outside the court process in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. The goal of a collaborative lawyer is to settle the case fairly, without going to court. The lawyers are hired to reach a settlement, not to go to court. If the process breaks down, the lawyers must withdraw from the case.


An agreement or conspiracy between the spouses to lie or deceive the court in order to get a divorce. To get a divorce, you must swear that there has been no collusion.

Common Law

This phrase has a number of different meanings: 1) a legal principle under which courts are bound to follow the principles established by previous courts in similar cases dealing with similar facts; 2) the system of justice used in all provinces except Quebec; and, 3) the legal status of an unmarried couple who have cohabited for longer than two years in a marriage-like relationship.

Common Law Peace Bond

Similar to 810 Peace Bond, except that the complaint does not need to have an ongoing fear of the other person in order for a judge to make the order. There does need to be a reasonable basis to believe that the other person may “breach the peace”. It is not a conviction but meant as a preventative measure. A peace bond may include conditions that will help maintain the peace.See Peace Bond and 810 Recognizance.

Common-Law Relationship

A same-sex or opposite-sex unmarried couple who live together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years under BC family law (and at least one year for the purposes of various Canadian federal laws).

Conditional Discharge

A type of sentence a judge can give, usually reserved for more minor offences and for those who do not have a significant criminal record. It is not a conviction, and the matter will be removed from their criminal record after 1 or 3 years as long as the offender successfully completes probation. Probation may include a number of conditions that they must follow.

Conditional Release

A police officer who arrests a person may release him/her from custody conditionally on the person's giving a promise to appear or entering into a recognizance. The recognizance may contain conditions limiting the accused's liberty and may require a cash deposit to ensure compliance. Also see Recognizance.

Conditional Sentence

A conditional sentence is a sentence of incarceration that is served by the offender in the community. The offender remains in the community under supervision, and is required to abide by a number of conditions, typically including a form of house arrest.


Forgiving the wrongful or harmful act of another. In family law, this usually refers to the forgiving of an act of adultery or cruelty and the continuation of the parties' relationship as it had been before. The courts will not grant a divorce on the basis of adultery or cruelty if there is obvious or implied condonation.


Private or secret information.


A disagreement between two parties.

Conflict of interest

When a person has a personal connection to the dispute or the people involved in the dispute and may not be able to make a neutral and fair decision.

Consent Order

A court order made by a judge when both parties or (former) partners agree to the terms of the order.

Contempt of Court

The crime of deliberately failing to obey or respect the authority of a court of law or legislative body.

Contested Wills

A challenge or disagreement about the terms of a will.


A formal or legally binding agreement.


A conviction is registered when a person, charged with an offence, enters a guilty plea or is found guilty following a trial, and that person is not discharged.


In Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, a master or judge's order that the losing party in a lawsuit pay the legal expenses (which may include court fees, disbursements, and legal fees) of the successful party. These orders may be made after an interim hearing but are usually made at the end of a trial or appeal.


The lawyers involved in the court proceedings.


A person who is sued may respond by filing their own claim against the party that started the lawsuit. The claims are usually related, for example a builder may sue a homeowner for unpaid work but the homeowner may counterclaim for damages done to their property by the builder. The court will then deal with both these claims at the same time.

Court Clerk

The assistant to the judge who swears in witnesses and supervises the exhibits during the trial.

Court of Appeal for British Columbia

Hears appeals of indictable offences from trial courts. Also hears appeals from decisions of Supreme Court on summary conviction appeals. This is not a trial court.

Court Order

A legally binding decision made by a court of law. A Court Order will usually be written down in a document and include directions given by a judge in court. There are legal consequences for disobeying a court order.

Court Registry

Place where the pleadings and documents for a court case are filed.

Criminal Law

Law which sets out crimes or acts which the government has decided are illegal. The parties to a criminal case are the alleged offender and the Crown, which represents the public or state.

Cross Examination

When a witness who is called by one party is asked questions by another party, after the witness has been questioned by the party who called him or her, to test if the witness is telling the truth. See Direct Examination.

Crown Counsel

Lawyers who work for the government. It is their job to present the Crown's (or state's) case. They are also known as prosecutors. In Canada, crimes are dealt with as wrongs against society as a whole and therefore, Crown counsel acts on behalf of all members of the public and do not represent the victim specifically.

Cruelty - Mental or Physical

Cruelty includes the physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse of one person by another. See also Grounds for Divorce.

Custodial Parent

The parent with the legal right and responsibility for raising a child and personally supervising the child.


If a party has Custody of children, that means that the party has rights and responsibilities to make decisions for those children and the children live with that party at least part of the time.

Custody and Access Assessment

A report to the court intended to help the court assess the needs and views of a child involved in a family dispute, as well as who is best able to meet the needs of the child. Section 211 of the Family Law Act allows the court to order an assessment by a family justice counsellor, social worker, or another approved person such as a psychologist.