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Debt – Services, money or goods owed by one party to another.

Default – A party’s failure to answer a complaint, motion or petition.

Defined Benefit Plan – This type of plan, also known as the traditional pension plan, promises
the participant a specified monthly benefit at retirement. Often, the benefit is based on factors such
as your salary, your age, and the number of years you worked for the employer.

Defined Contribution Plan – In a defined contribution plan, the employee and/or the employer
contribute to the employee’s individual account under the plan. The employee often decides how
their accounts are invested. The amount in the account at distribution includes the contributions
and investment gains or losses, minus any investment and administrative fees. The contributions
and earnings are not taxed until distribution. The value of the account will change based on the
value and performance of the investments.

Declarations – in California as a result of the Reifler case, many hearings for temporary relief take
place on the paperwork instead of live testimony. Witnesses submit written declarations under
penalty of perjury and the same rules of evidence apply to the declarant as if they were testifying in
court.

Deposition – The testimony of a witness taken out of court under oath and reduced to writing.
Discovery depositions are the most common and are taken for the purpose of discovering the facts
upon which a party’s claim is based or discovering the substance of a witness’s testimony prior to
trial. The deposition may be used to discredit a witness if he changes his testimony.

Direct Examination – The initial questioning of a witness by the attorney who called him or her to
the stand.

Discovery – Procedures followed by attorneys in order to determine the nature, scope, and
credibility of the opposing party’s claim. Discovery procedures include depositions, written
interrogatories, and notices to produce documentation relating to issues, relevant to the case.

Dismissal – Occurs when a party voluntarily drops the case or when a judge finds that a case
totally lacks merit.

Disregard - When a child support payment is collected, a party receiving CalWORKS gets the first
$50 of the child support payment - called a
disregard - and the rest of the payment is used to pay
back the county for the cost of the CalWORKS benefit.

Dissolution of Marriage – This action can be filed by a married person to end the marital
relationship between a husband and wife. Along with restoring the parties to single status, the
Court will issue orders for custody and visitation of the minor children of the marriage, child
support, spousal support, and confirm or divide community and separate property assets and
debts.

Once an action is filed by a Petitioner, the other party, Respondent, must be personally served with
specific paperwork. If the Respondent fails to file the necessary responding paperwork within thirty
(30) days of service, the Petitioner may request an entry of default. Once the default is entered,
the Petitioner can complete the divorce proceeding without the participation of the Respondent.

If the Respondent files the necessary responding paperwork, the case will then proceed as either a
contested matter or an uncontested matter. The action is considered contested if the parties are
unable to agree on some or all issues and the unresolved issues must be resolved by the Court.
The action is considered uncontested if the parties are able to cooperate and agree on all issues
outside of Court and the matter can proceed to its conclusion by submitting the necessary signed
paperwork for the Court's signature.


Divorce – The legal proceeding by which a marriage is legally terminated. It may be contested
(where one party denied the allegation or wants to keep the marriage in place) or uncontested.

Domestic Partners - Domestic partners are "two adults who have chosen to share one another's
lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." The following discussion is for
people who have registered their domestic partnership with the California Secretary of State or the
equivalent in another state (such as a civil union in Vermont). (
read more)

Domestic Violence – The physical abuse of one family member by another.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders - A restraining order is a Court order issued to prevent
the recurrence of acts of abuse by a batterer. Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, abuse
is defined as any of the following:

  • Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person
    or to another.
  • Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined such as molesting, attacking,
    striking, stalking, threatening, battering, harassing, telephoning, destroying personal
    property, contacting the other by mail or otherwise, disturbing the peace of the other party.

The act(s) of abuse/violence must be recent, within thirty days, and the batterer must be a spouse,
ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, someone with whom the victim has or has
had a dating relationship, an immediate family member (mother, father, in-laws, siblings, adult
children), or a person with whom a party has a child/ren together. A victim that is a target of abuse
but does not have the necessary relationship to the batterer may file a civil harassment restraining
order, discussed below.

The restraining order can include the following: restraints on personal conduct by the batterer;
orders for the batterer to stay-away from the victim's home/work and/or children's school; orders for
the batterer to be removed from the residence; child custody and visitation and support orders and
other miscellaneous orders.

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