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Law Glossary

Legal Terms Defined by Reputable Wisconsin Law Firm

The professional team of family law, divorce, and criminal defense attorneys at Renee E. Mura, S.C. want to be your best resource, not only for ethical, aggressive representation but also for legal advice and clarification surrounding common phrases frequently used in the legal field. Our dedicated attorneys have compiled a list of terms to give you a better understanding of the legal process and the services we provide. If you are seeking an attorney in Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha, or Milwaukee Counties, contact Renee E. Mura, S.C. today!

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Click the Term Below to Reveal its Definition:

A formal request made by the losing party to determine if the court’s decision was correct. Appeals must be filed in a court higher than the trial court where the case took place.

Bankruptcy is the system of legal statutes and courts that allow persons or businesses which are unable to pay debts they owe to hand their finances over to the courts.

Battery can be any unlawful physical contact, but is usually reserved for the use of force against an individual. Battery is a misdemeanor but can be elevated to a felony if the situation demands.

This chapter of the bankruptcy code allows individuals with regular annual income to pay back their debts over time. Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers multiple advantages over liquidation options available in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individuals to save their home from foreclosure and pay back debts over time in a series of installments.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for “liquidation” – the sale – of a person or business’s nonexempt property and appropriate distribution of proceeds to creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not require the filing of a plan of repayment like Chapter 13.

Child abuse can be any emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment or neglect of a child. While the legality of certain acts of parental discipline, such as spanking, may not be considered “abuse” depending on the individual circumstances; any other act that could be perceived as neglectful or an emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment, or an act that endangers the child could be seen as child abuse.

Legal custody of a child refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions for a minor child. Major decisions include, but are not limited to: consent to marry, consent to enter military service, consent to obtain a motor vehicle operator’s license, authorization for non-emergency health care, choice of school, and choice of religion. Physical placement, often mistaken for child custody, is the legal term referenced in regards to the amount of time a child resides with each parent/party.

Child placement refers to the actual time a child will spend in a parent’s care. This can vary from case to case. The court will examine a number of factors in determining placement that is in the best interest of the child.

Child support is an ongoing, monthly payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of the child. Failure to pay child support is a crime which can be resolved in court. To modify a child support order, one must show a change in circumstances such as a change in income. A motion to modify child support must be filed with the court to change an order.

An individual or business to whom money is owed.

An individual or business who owes money.

A defense attorney is a lawyer who specializes in the defense of individuals who have been charged with a crime. Charges filed by the District Attorney means they believe the individual in question has broken the law, but a person is not found guilty until a jury convicts that person or the person admits his/her criminal acts by entering a please. It is the defense attorney’s job to ensure the individual receives fair treatment from the law and to determine whether or not they broke the law.

Disorderly conduct is often a catch all term. Typically, disorderly conduct refers to actions that disturb the general peace or threaten to do so. Police may use a disorderly conduct charge to keep the peace and detain individuals who they deem unruly or dangerous.

Divorce is the termination of a marriage in the eyes of the law. The reasons for divorce vary greatly. Wisconsin believes in “no-fault” divorce. This means that a spouse does not have to prove their partner was involved in any wrong doing, and can file for divorce without their spouses’ approval.

Wisconsin takes drunk driving very seriously. In Wisconsin no person over the age of 21 may operate vehicles or machinery with a Blood Alcohol Content above .08. Often referred to as a DUI, the legal term in Wisconsin is Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). An OWI can be met with fines, jail time, or the revocation of a license. The legal BAC for persons under 21 years of age is 0.0 - absolute sobriety.

Family law is an area of the law concerned with legal matters in the context of a family. This can include divorce, custody / physical placement, adoption, termination of parental rights (TPR), paternity, post-judgment modification / enforcement, restraining orders, and more.

A felony is a crime deemed more serious than that of a misdemeanor, typically involving violence. Individuals found guilty of a felony charge can face long term punishment even after they are imprisoned, such as losing the right to vote or own a firearm.

Foreclosure is the process through which a lender attempts to recover their balance from a borrower who has stopped making regular payments. Foreclosure often refers to a home, but can refer to any piece of property that the lender has helped finance.

Evidence the witness did not personally see or hear, but heard from another individual. Hearsay is generally not admissible as evidence in a trial.

A junior lien is a lien that is subordinate to another lien. Whichever lien is secondary in priority is the junior lien to the primary lien.

Larceny is a catch all term for a crime in which an individual has unlawfully attempted to acquire another individual’s property. This can refer to theft, petty theft, or even misinformation. Larceny is usually a placeholder term, used before the true nature of the crime is determined, but is still a criminal offense that can be reviewed in court and result in jail time.

A lien is a form of security deposit granted over an item of property, to secure payment of debt.

Maternity refers to the biological mother of a child.

A misdemeanor refers to a crime of minor wrongdoing. Punished less severely than felonies, misdemeanors are primarily punished through monetary penalties.

Paternity refers to the biological father of a child. Paternity is used to establish legal fatherhood. As the legal father, an individual is guaranteed certain rights unless determined otherwise.

A lien placed on your property when you owe money to a creditor for that specific property.

A prosecutor is the attorney who is the chief representative of the prosecuting party. The prosecutor is responsible for presenting the case against the individual who has been accused of breaking the law.