Failure to Thrive:

Clinical description used to describe a delay in a child's growth or development. It is usually applied to infants and children up to two years of age who do not gain or maintain weight as they should. Failure to thrive is not a specific disease, but rather a cluster of symptoms which may come from a variety of sources.  Organic failure to thrive (OFTT) implies that the organs involved with digestion and absorption of food are malformed or incomplete so the baby cannot digest its food. Non-organic failure to thrive (NOFTT) is the most common cause of Failure to Thrive and implies the baby is not receiving enough food due to economic factors or parental neglect, or because of psychosocial problems.  Failure to thrive may also result from lack of available food or the quality of the food offered due to economic factors in the family, parental beliefs and concepts of nutrition , or neglect of the child.  Psychosocial problems, often stemming from a lack of nurturing parent-child relations can also lead to a failure to thrive causing the child(ren) to exhibit poor appetite due to depression from insufficient attention from parents.  Refer to Child Abuse and Neglect.

Fair and Reasonable:

A judicial standard reserved for matters applicable to family law, whereby the court attempts to temper zealous advocacy for adversarial positioning with justice, and more especially in consideration of the consequences in the “best interest of children”.  Refer to Family Law, Preponderance of the Evidence, or Clear and Convincing Evidence.

Fair Market Value:

The highest price that a buyer may be willing to pay, but is not compelled to buy, and the lowest a amount a seller may be willing to accept, but is not compelled to sell property (real or personal).

Family Law:

An area of law, often widely varying from state to state, encompassing family-related issues and domestic relations including: marriage, civil unions, divorce, child custody and access (visitation), property division, child support, alimony, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, adoption, estate planning, and death.

Family Law Service Officer:

A title often used to describe an employee of the court to whom the judge may refer cases for alternative dispute resolution.  See Court Services Officer; Mediation, Arbitration

Family Support Act:

Short form designation for the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act passed in 1988, that mandated two primary directives: 1) Immediate Wage Withholding, unless the court should find good cause not to require such withholding, or there is a written agreement between both parties requiring an alternative arrangement; and 2) Guidelines for Child Support Award Amounts, which requires states to establish guidelines in the determination of the minimum amount for financial child support, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.  Refer to UIFSA(Uniform Interstate Family Support Act).

Family Violence Indicator:

A designation assigned to a person placed in the Federal Case Registry (FCR) by order of the State to indicate a person is associated with child abuse or domestic violence. It is used to prevent disclosure of the location of a custodial party and/or a child believed by the State to be at risk of family violence.  Refer to FCR (Federal Case Registry).

Fault Divorce:

A complaint for divorce based upon stated grounds (abuse, adultery, abandonment, etc.) recognized by the state, also termed "divorce a vinculo matrimonii".  Fault divorce is a judicial termination of a marriage based on marital misconduct or other statutory cause requiring proof in a court of law by the complainant (plaintiff) that the respondent (defendant) had acted, or otherwise caused to happen, a sufficient ground for divorce.  Refer to Divorce A Vinculo Matrimonii or No-Fault Divorce.

FCR (Federal Case Registry):

A national database maintained by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) containing state Child Support Enforcement (IV-D) and non IV-D case data and serves as a cross-reference system to help locate persons across state lines. The FCR receives case information on a daily basis from the State Case Registry (SCR) located in every state, and proactively matches it with previous submissions to the FCR and with employment information contained in the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) to facilitate case processing and increase collections, especially through automated income withholding. Matches are also sent to states to inform them if a IV-D case participant in their state appears as a participant in an IV-D or non IV-D case in another state.  The FCR additionally serves as the conduit for matching against other federal databases including Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DOD), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Refer to IV-D, NDNH (National Directory of New Hires), (MSFIDM) Multi-state Financial Institution Data Match, and OCSE (Office of Child Support Enforcement).

Federal Child Support Guideline Requirements:

Regulations established under law by the Family Law (Divorce) of 1996 that requires each state establish a set a guidelines that fairly calculate financial child support payment amounts based on a set of income rules and tables.  There is a separate table for each state to reflect different tax rates and other financial considerations between areas.  Refer to Child Support Guidelines.

Federal Court:

Courts established by the Congress of United States under Article III of the U.S. Constitution for the purposes of supporting federal laws and resolving disputes between states.  Federal courts rarely decide issues of family law, but may exercise authority in such instances involving complex venue determinations or international agreements where family law matters may be an important factor such as international custody, child abduction or bankruptcy.  Refer to Bankruptcy and Hague Convention.

Federal Parent Locator Service:

A national location system of various programs operated by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, to assist in locating non-custodial parents, putative fathers, and custodial parties to determine paternity; establish, modify or enforce financial child support orders; apply or enforce child custody or parenting access (visitation) orders; and enforce Federal or state laws regarding unlawful taking, kidnapping, or restraint of a child.  Refer to FCR (Federal Case Registry), Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, MSFIDM (Multi-state Financial Institution Data Match), NDNH (National Directory of New Hires), or Passport Denial Program.

Federal Tax Refund Offset Program:

A jointly operated program between the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS), the U.S. Department of State, and State Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Agencies.  The program collects past due child support amounts from non-custodial parents through the interception of Federal income tax refund, or administrative payments, such as Federal retirement benefits. This program also incorporates the Passport Denial Program, which denies U.S. passports at the time of application if financial child support debts exceed $2,500.  Under the newly passed bill number H.R. 4241 the program will expand to include the revocation and/or restriction of already issued passports.   (Refer to Intercept).

Fee Agreement:

A written agreement between a client and attorney expressing the terms for the payment of services delivered.  At a minimum, a Fee Agreement should make provisions for: receipt of monthly invoices; hourly billing rate (detailing the rates of the attorney, associates, and paralegals); billing units (quarter hour – 15 minutes/10th of an hour – 6 minutes); the amount of retainer, if any; how and when the retainer will be replenished if depleted; the return/disposition of any funds not used; and other costs that may be associated with the delivery of services but not included in the hourly rate. Refer to Contingency Fee or Legal Costs.

FFCCSOA (Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act):

Law authorized under Title 28 of the U.S. Code which requires states to enforce child support orders made by other states if: a) the issuing state’s court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear and resolve the matter and enter an order; b) the issuing state’s court had personal jurisdiction over the parties; and, c) reasonable notice and the opportunity to be heard was given to the parties.  Refer to (PRWORA) Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

Fictive Kin:

A term used to describe persons that are unrelated by birth or marriage, but share an emotionally significant relationship with another individual that would take on the characteristics of a family relationship.


From the Latin term “fiducia” meaning “trust”, referring to a person in a position of trust who has assumed a special relationship to another person or another person's property charged to exercise the highest degree of care to maintain and preserve the person's rights or interests; a general term used to refer to executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or attorney.

Fieri Facias:

Latin term meaning "that you cause to be done" referring to the court document that instructs a sheriff to seize and sell property in order to satisfy a monetary judgment against the defendant.  Refer to Attachment or Bankruptcy.


The condition or fact of being the child of a certain parent for the purpose to determine the maternity or paternity of a child, and further adjudge rights and responsibilities. Refer to Paternity.


Any document submitted to and officially received (docketed) by the court or its representative (i.e. Clerk of the Court).  Refer to Clerk of the Court.

Filing Fee:

A monetary assessment charged by a public official to accept a document for processing, such as may be necessary to submit pleadings and other documents to the court in a civil matter , or to put a deed on file in the public records.  Refer to Filing or Clerk of the Court, or In Forma Pauperis.

Final Judgment:

Also known as a Decree of Dissolution or Judgment of Divorce, it is the court's definitive judgment after expiration of the interlocutory or judgment nisi period when both parties are deemed legally divorced and may remarry.  Refer to Absolute Divorce, Interlocutory Decree; Judgment Nisi.

FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) Code:

A standardized five-digit set of numeric or alphabetic codes issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure uniform identification of geographic entities through all federal government agencies used to identify financial child support jurisdiction between states, counties, and central state registries.

Foster Home:

A temporary form of substitute care, usually in a home licensed by a public agency, for orphaned, delinquent or other at-risk children whose safety and welfare requires removal from their primary home.  Refer to Ward.

FPLS (Federal Parent Locator Service):

A national database and location network system operated by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) that collects address and employer information, as well as data on financial child support cases in every state.  The process of comparing and returning matches assists state and local child support enforcement agencies locate non-custodial parents and putative fathers for the purposes of establishing custody and access rights, implementing and enforcing financial child support obligations, investigating parental kidnapping, and processing adoption or foster care cases.  Refer to Putative Father, OCSE (Office of Child Support), FCR (Federal Case Registry), and NDNH (National Directory of New Hires).


The act of making a material misrepresentation or failing to disclose a material fact to induce another to give up something of value by the intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of money, property or a legal right.  Defense against false claims for payment from contracts that were not agreed upon are generally protected under the state Statutes of Fraud.  Most complaints involving fraud in a context of family law relate to deception in the inducement to marry, separation agreements, and the introduction of false evidence at trial.  In matters of revising a previous judgment, the fraud must be material, and the plaintiff (victim) must prove that: a) substantial harm was suffered as a result; and b) the fraud could not be detected at the time it occurred by using a standard of reasonable care.   Refer to Appeal.

Fraudulent Conveyance:

The concerted effort of a person (debtor) to transfer an asset to another in the attempt to keep it beyond the reach of a creditor.  The court may deem the act fraudulent and void the transaction if the transfer occurred within a certain time frame before commencement of a lawsuit or bankruptcy and if the debtor did not receive a fair price for the asset in question.


Referring to a legal move in a lawsuit clearly intended merely to harass, delay or embarrass the opposition. Frivolous acts can include filing a baseless lawsuit; an answer of a defendant to a complaint which does not deny, contest, prove or controvert anything; or a request for a ruling or an appeal that does not contain an arguable basis for same.

Functus Officio:

Latin term meaning “function discharged”, referring to the situation when a court upon having rendered a decision on a particular matter, ceases to have any jurisdiction to make any further orders; and any later alteration must be by another, usually appellate court.  Refer to Decision or Appeal.