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.


Safety Plan

A means to ensure the safety of an adult or child in a potentially dangerous situation. They can help by preparing people to reduce the potential for violence, get help in an emergency, get away safely, keep children safe, and safely get clothes, pets and other personal items.

Search Warrant

A court order authorizing entry to somebody's property to look for unlawful possessions or for evidence of the commission of a crime.

Second Stage Housing

Second-stage housing helps people who have left abusive relationships make plans for independent living. Individuals and their children usually stay in a second-stage house for 6-18 months.

Section 7 Expenses

See Special or Extraordinary Expenses.


A sentence is the judgment pronounced by the Court upon the accused, after a finding of guilt. The type of sentence a judge will give will depend on the circumstances the accused, the seriousness of the offence

Sentence Hearing

A sentence hearing is the date is set to hear arguments by the Crown and defence to help the judge to sentence the offender.


When two people who have been living together in a marriage, or marriage-like relationship, decide not to live together any more with the intention of living separate and apart. There is no such thing as a “legal” separation. If a couple is living apart, they are separated. Sometimes a couple may be separated but living under the same roof.

Separation Agreement

A document that separating or separated spouses can draw up to put in writing those matters that are settled between them. Some of the matters the spouses might deal with in this document include custody, access, guardianship, child support or spousal support, or division of assets or debts. There is no official form to use for drawing up a separation agreement.


Getting a court document to another person in whatever way the law requires.


To come to a decision or agreement about something in order to solve a problem or a dispute.


The Sheriff's responsibilities are to make sure the Courtroom is safe, and to look after witnesses, juries and prisoners.

Show Cause Hearing

See Bail Hearing.

Special or Extraordinary Expenses (Section 7 Expenses)

Special expenses are extra expenses for a child over and above the regular cost of living, such as child care expenses while the recipient works or goes to school or is ill or disabled, medical and dental insurance premiums specifically for the child, health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, and expenses for post-secondary education. Extraordinary expenses are expenses for education, programs, or extracurricular activities that meet the child's needs, such as tutoring or private school, or, possibly, for other activities in which the child excels and is shown to be particularly gifted.

Specific Performance

A court order compelling somebody to carry out an obligation, often something stipulated in a contract.

Specified Access

The court order or agreement under the Divorce Act which states exactly when and for how long the children will be with their other parent. See Access.

Sponsorship Agreement

When one spouse sponsors another spouse to come to Canada, that person will usually sign a "sponsorship agreement" with the government. That agreement requires the sponsor to support the person coming to Canada, whether they stay married or separate or divorce. This agreement is only binding between the sponsor and the government. If the person coming to Canada needs spousal support, for example, he or she will have to ask the court for an order that spousal support be paid.

Spousal Abuse

Spousal abuse is the violence or mistreatment that a woman or man experiences at the hands of a marital, common-law or same sex partner. Spousal abuse may include physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, emotional abuse, criminal harassment or stalking, economic/financial abuse, spiritual abuse or other.

Spousal Support

Financial support paid to a former spouse under a court order or agreement. Sometimes called maintenance; sometimes referred to as alimony in other locations outside BC. Spousal support is distinct from Child Support or Special or Extraordinary Expenses.


People who are married or who live in a marriage-like relationship for a specified period of time are spouses under the Family Law Act

Statute Law

The body of law that has been enacted by a legislature.

Statutory Release

By law, most federal inmates are automatically released after serving two-thirds of their sentence. This is called statutory release.

Stay of Proceedings

A stay of proceedings might be called by Crown or the Court. This is when the court proceedings are halted. When the Crown enters a stay of proceedings, they have up to a year to restart the proceedings. Also referred to as a Stay.


A subpoena (pronounced sub-pena) is an official court document, which orders a witness to come to Court to give evidence.


To take a legal action against somebody to obtain something, usually compensation for a wrong.

Summary Conviction Offence

A summary conviction is generally considered for less serious offences. Many summary offences have a maximum jail sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $5,000.00. The trial for summary offences is held in Provincial Court before a provincial court judge. See Hybrid Offence and Indictable Offence.

Summary Trial

A Summary Trial is a quicker and less expensive alternative to a trial, and does not usually include oral evidence. Evidence is provided by way of affidavit. It is intended to result in a final court order.


A summons sets out the charge as well as the time and place at which the accused is to appear in court. It is issued by a Justice of the Peace after an Information has been sworn, as a way to notify the accused of the charge and require his or her attendance to court on the date set forth in the summons.

Supernumerary Judge

A judge of the Supreme Court that sits for at least half-time.

Supervised Access

The parent can only spend time with the children with another adult present.


Payments made from one person to another to help pay the living costs of that person or of a child. See Spousal Support and Child Support.

Support Order or Agreement

Specifies the amount one former spouse must pay to the other for spousal and/or child support. It may be a separate order or agreement, or may form part of a larger divorce order or separation agreement.

Supreme Court of British Columbia

Conducts civil and criminal jury and non-jury trials. Criminal trials relate to all indictable offences. This court also hears summary conviction appeals.

Supreme Court of Canada

The highest court in Canada. It hears appeals from the Appeal Courts of each of the provinces and territories, and the Federal Court of Appeal.


Surety is the person who vouches for the accused while he or she is on bail awaiting trial or appeal. The surety will provide assets to the Court which they risk losing if the accused does not abide by his or her bail conditions or fails to attend Court.

Suspended Sentence

A suspended sentence can be given by the Court with directions that an offender be released under the conditions of a probation order. Someone who receives this sentence will have a conviction recorded on their Criminal Record.


These words are used when any party or witness swears on a holy book (like the Bible) to tell the truth, or makes a solemn affirmation (a promise) that he or she will tell the truth to the court.