Habitual Residence:

A term used in the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention), but left to the courts for definition, to determine the appropriate venue and residence in matters of wrongful removal or retention (child abduction).  Although not defined by the Convention, courts are generally holding that a child may have only one habitual country of residence which pertains to the primary family and social environment in which the life of the child(ren) has developed, and in whose custody had been entrusted to and lawfully exercised by a natural or legal person.  Refer to Hague Convention or Parental Kidnapping.

Hague Convention:

The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention) of 1980 for the purpose deterring international child abduction and providing a mechanism for the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained from their home country of habitual residence.  The Convention only applies to the wrongful removal or retention of a child in the responding jurisdiction (signatory country) that has contracted to participate in the agreement.  The Convention further limits its application only to children less than 16 years old who have been habitually residing in a contracting state immediately before the breach of custody or access rights and ceases to apply on the day when the child(ren) attains the age of 16.  It is not a requirement for a parent to have a custody order to invoke the Convention, but must be actually exercising “rights of custody” as may be guaranteed under the law of the country where the child was habitually residing at the time of the abduction or wrongful retention.  However, procedures invoked under the Hague Convention are summary in nature and do not contemplate the merits of a custody award.  That is, a new trial or revision of custody may not be determined by the country to which the child(ren) has been abducted.  Instead, the child(ren) must be returned to the country of habitual residence for determination of custody or access issues at the local trial level. Refer to Habitual Residence, ICARA (International Child Abduction Remedies Act) or Parental Kidnapping, or UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act).

Head of Household:

A person who maintains, in one household, one or more people who are closely related by blood, marriage or adoption and who remain dependent for support.  Also, a filing status under federal income tax rules that may provide certain tax benefits.


A legal proceeding conducted before a judge or other magistrate (such as a hearing officer or court commissioner) without benefit of a jury in an effort to resolve a disputed factual or legal issue.  Evidence and/or arguments are presented in a brief session involving a specific question(s) usually prior to scheduling a trial.  The court may also use hearings to decide a specific issue on an interim basis for such considerations as whether a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order or should be issued, or to temporarily award child custody or financial child support.  Refer to Administrative Hearing, Pendente Lite, or Temporary Restraining Order.

Heirs at Law:

In a strict sense, persons who would inherit the estate of a deceased person by statutory law if the deceased died without a will. When a person dies without a will, the heirs to their estate are determined under the rules of descent and distribution. In common usage, heirs refers to anyone who inherits property of a decedent, whether by will, deed, statute, or other legal manner.  Refer to Descendants, Probate, or Inheritance or Pretermitted Heir.

HHS (Department of Health and Human Services):

The principal agency of the United States government with responsibility for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.  Services include: health and social science research; preventing disease, including immunization services; assuring food and drug safety; Medicare (health insurance for elderly and disabled Americans) and Medicaid (health insurance for low-income people); health information technology; financial assistance and services for low-income families; improving maternal and infant health; Head Start (pre-school education and services); faith-based and community initiatives; preventing child abuse and domestic violence; substance abuse treatment and prevention; services for older Americans, including home-delivered meals; comprehensive health services for Native Americans; and medical preparedness for emergencies, including potential terrorism.  Refer to ACF (Administration for Children and Families).

High-Conflict Divorce:

Cases where spouses are unwilling to negotiate a compromise, or otherwise work collaboratively together, to reach an agreement for the benefit of the child(ren) or family unit as a whole. Highly conflicted divorces (approximately 5% of total divorces) usually involve significant investments of time, money and other resources into litigation and other dispute resolution techniques to bind the opposing parties to some form of agreement approved by the court.

Hold Harmless:

A situation in which one spouse assumes liability for a debt or other obligation and promises to protect the other spouse from any loss or expense in connection with it. Refer to Innocent Spouse Rule.

Holographic Will:

A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making it. Holographic wills are generally not witnessed. Although considered valid in many states, a holographic will is not usually advised except under the most extreme circumstances.

Home State:

The legal state of residence where a child lived with a parent or guardian for a period of not less than six consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of child custody proceedings.  In the instance of a child less than six months old, Home State refers to the state where the child lived from birth.  Refer to Habitual Residence, ICARA (International Child Abduction Remedies Act) or Parental Kidnapping, or UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act).


A residence of one or more occupants used to report and calculate income, tax liabilities and financial requirements.  Refer to Head of Household, Income, or Child Support Guidelines.

Human Rights:

Basic standards of legal, civil and political rights and liberties universally recognized by numerous international agreements, declarations and pledges.  Refer to Civil Rights.