ICARA (International Child Abduction Remedies Act):

Federal legislation ratified by Congress on July 1, 1988 to implement procedures applicable to handling actions brought in the United States pursuant to its obligations under the Hague Convention.  ICARA establishes legal rights and enforcement proceedings for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained, as well as for securing the exercise of access (visitation) rights. Children who are wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Convention are to be promptly returned unless one of the narrow exceptions set forth in the Convention applies whereupon the local court may resolve the custody issue on the merits of the case. Refer to Child Abduction or Hague Convention.

ICMEC (International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children):

Agency serving as the Central Authority for the United States as a participating signatory (contracting state) to the Hague Convention to receive incoming cases involving international child abduction.  ICMEC interventions include: a) helping parents obtain legal services; b) providing the local court with information on the Convention; c) taking periodic updates from the court; d) processing requests for background checks on the child(ren) from the country of habitual residence; e) obtaining a written opinion on the wrongfulness of the alleged violation from the country of habitual residence; and assisting local social welfare agency investigate a child’s welfare. Refer to Central Authority, Child Abduction, Habitual Residence, Hague Convention, ICARA (International Child Abduction Remedies Act), or NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).

Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat:

Latin term meaning “let no-one be excused for ignorance of the law”, generally used to express the concept that ignorance of the law does not excuse a person from compliance with the law.


An outdated reference to a child born to parents who are not married to each other which has been replaced by the term born “out-of-wedlock". Most states have adopted uniform laws governing the responsibility of both parents to provide financial support and care for a child regardless of their parents' marital status and giving children born out-of-wedlock the same rights to inherit parental property as anyone else. States often require parentage (paternity) to be established before support may be ordered. Refer to Out of Wedlock, Child Support Payment or Putative Father.

Impeachment of Testimony:

The act of discrediting a witness by demonstrating inconsistent statements, depositions or interrogatories of prior verbal or written assertions and declarations suggesting an untrustworthiness of any or all testimony rendered. Refer to Cross Examination, Deposition, Interrogatory or Perjury.

Imputed Income:

A volatile strategy in highly-conflicted disputes, especially as it used to calculate financial child support. Imputed income calculates fringe benefits provided to employees that may be taxable but which cannot be counted as additional disposable income that is subject to financial child support obligations.  The concept is also applied when a party claims they are unable to work, or no longer earn a similar level of income as they did prior to the commencement of the lawsuit. The opposing argument suggests income should be attributed to the party because they are trained, educated, experienced and/or capable of earning additional income, but are voluntarily or involuntarily positioned in an unemployed or underemployed status.  Refer to Income.

In Camera Hearing:

A restricted hearing before the judge in private chambers or when the public is excluded from the courtroom.  Proceedings held “in camera” are primarily designed to protect victims and witnesses from public exposure, especially when concerning sensitive child-related issues if the victim or witness is a child.  Although a record is made of the proceeding, the court may seal this portion of the entire record if the judge deems the material extremely sensitive or likely to unfairly prejudice one side or the other.


For purposes of matters involving family law, the mental state or physical condition (congenital disability, mental illness, physical ailment/injury, advanced age, or intellectual deficiency) of a person determined by a court to be unable to manage their own affairs.  Refer to Incompetent.


Any periodic form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker's compensation, disability, pension, or retirement program payments and interest. All income (except imputed income) is subject to income withholding for financial child support, pursuant to a child support order, but is protected by Consumer Credit Protection Act limits at the state and federal level.  Refer to Imputed Income, Gross Income or Net Income.

Income Analysis:

A method of estimating the value of an asset based on the capitalization of income and productivity concerning the present worth of future benefits of the property.  Refer to Appraisal, Valuation, Assets, Property, Cost Analysis or Market Analysis.

Income Withholding:

A procedure authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), whereby voluntary or involuntary deductions from wages and other income are automatically withheld to comply with a court ordered payment, such as financial child support.  The provision dictates that an employer must withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding payment to the appropriate agency through centralized collection or the state disbursement unit.  Refer to Garnishment or PRWORA (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act).


A term with several meanings in the law. When used to describe the mental condition of a person subject to legal proceedings, it means the person is neither able to comprehend the nature and consequences of the proceedings, nor able adequately to help an attorney with a defense.  When exercised to describe the legal qualification of a person, it means the person does not have the legal capacity to enter into a binding contract. When employed to describe a professional duty or obligation, it means that the person has demonstrated an inadequate ability to perform the functions required of a particular skill or profession.  A person adjudged incompetent by the court is appointed a guardian to handle the person’s property and personal affairs as would be normally accomplished in their best interests.  Refer to Incapacitated.


A term describing a poor or needy person and unable to consistently and independently provide the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter.  In matters of law, refers to a person with insufficient income to afford a lawyer for defense in a criminal trial and the appointment of same which may otherwise deny the constitutional right of counsel.  Refer to In Forma Pauperis.

In Forma Pauperis:

A Latin term which means “in the form of a pauper” referring to the court administrative process of waiving legal filing fees for a party to a lawsuit who has made a declaration they possess a lack of funds. Such declarations are more generally made by young couples seeking divorce, or indigent persons responding to civil litigation.  Refer to Indigent.

Informed Consent:

The legal ability of a person to join in an agreement, or to allow something to happen, with complete knowledge of the risks, consequences, and alternatives to same.  Most common forms of informed consent involve receiving medical treatment or communication of constitutional rights for persons arrested for a crime (Miranda Warnings).


A legal term used to describe the receipt of property (real or personal) through state laws of intestate succession and distribution where the decedent has failed to execute a valid will.  A popular term used to characterize anything of value received from the estate of a person who has died, whether by the laws of descent or as a beneficiary of a will or trust.  Refer to Beneficiary or Heirs at Law.

Inheritance Rights:

In equitable distribution states, an “expectancy” of entitlement to tangible or intangible property because it is not yet vested in a beneficiary or heir.  Courts usually avoid placing an economic value on assets of uncertain worth that may or may not be received upon some uncertain future date.  Refer to Beneficiary or Heirs at Law.


A court order, also referred to as a restraining order, which forbids or relieves a person from engaging or completing a particular act that is likely to cause injury or property loss to another party (negative injunction); or requires certain activities, such as access (visitation) to the non-custodial parent (affirmative injunction).  Refer to Restraining Order.

In Limine:

Latin term meaning "at the threshold," referring to a motion before a trial begins to suppress illegally obtained evidence. Most commonly used in criminal trials because evidence is subject to constitutional limitations, but not without precedent in civil proceedings.

In Loco Parentis:

A Latin term meaning “instead of a parent” or “in place of a parent”.   In loco parentis infers that the person or entity is standing in the role of the parent of a minor, without having gone through the formal adoption process for the purpose of assuming the parental obligations for the child(ren) to protect their best interests.

Innocent Spouse Rule:

A provision under Section 434(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code which protects a spouse from certain tax liabilities if a particular set of stringent conditions are met including: a) a joint return was filed; b) the return contained a ‘grossly erroneous’ error; c) the spouse establishes lack of knowledge; and d) in light of all the facts and circumstances of the case, it would be inequitable to impose the tax on the innocent spouse.  Refer to Hold Harmless.

In Personam Jurisdiction:

Latin term meaning “against a person” referring to the authority a court has over a particular person’s rights or obligations, generally characterized by authority of residence, conducting business, or as may be otherwise determined by other actions defined by the state.

In Propria Persona:

Often shortened to “in pro per”, a latin term meaning “in one’s own proper person” referring to legal representation without the assistance of an attorney.  Alludes to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that a lawmaking body (court) may prefer to discourage attorneys from appearing on their own behalf to litigate their own claims, in the belief that self-representation may appear to conflict with general public perceptions and legislative policies regarding an expectation for fair and impartial proceedings to determine the merit of a lawsuit.  Refer to Pro Se.

Ipso Facto:

A Latin term meaning "by the fact itself" to express something obvious to the court that it needs no elaboration or further explanation.

In Rem Jurisdiction:

Latin term meaning “against or about a thing,” referring to a lawsuit or other legal action directed toward property in determining which court has jurisdiction relative to the physical location of the property.


A term used to describe a financial condition generally indicating that a party’s liabilities exceed its assets or that it is unable to satisfy its obligations as they come due.  Refer to Bankruptcy.


A method of involuntarily securing unpaid financial child support amounts, by capturing a portion of non-wage payments (Federal tax refunds, state tax refunds, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits) made to a non-custodial parent.  Refer to Federal Tax Refund Offset Program.

Interlocutory Judgment:

A term used to describe a temporary order, sentence, or decree, issued in an intermediate stage between the commencement and termination of a cause (statutory waiting period).  In matters of divorce, it is used to provide a provisional decision on an issue but is not final until completion of the waiting (nisi) period which means the parties are still legally married, and either spouse may have a right to inherit from the other person if one should become deceased before the judgment becomes final or absolute.  Because an interlocutory judgment is not final it is usually not subject to appeal.  Refer to Absolute Divorce.


Written questions sent by one party to the opposing party for the latter to answer in writing under oath.  Refer to Answer.

In Terrorem:

A Latin term meaning "in fear" used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to legally intimidate a person into complying with the terms of the agreement out of fear of losing all benefits provided in the document.  Refer to Probate, Will or Agreement.

Inter Vivos Trust:

A Latin term meaning "between the living" used most commonly in reference to a living trust. Refer to Living Trust, Trust or Living Will.


The legal circumstance surrounding the distribution of an estate in the event a person does not leave a will or the will is declared invalid, and subject to the laws of descent and distribution of the state in which the person resided.  Refer to Probate.

In Toto:

A Latin term meaning for "in its entirety" or "completely", commonly used to reference the “total” of something, such as the dismissal of a case on all counts.  Refer to Count or Summary Judgment.


In matters of family law, a person appointed by the court, usually to investigate child-related issues and disputes, to file a report with the judge.  Unlike the role of a Guardian ad Litem, an investigator does not stand in the shoes of the minor child(ren) for the purpose of representing their best interests to the court.

Irretrievable Breakdown:

The legal ground for no fault divorce in most states to which the parties attest that the marriage union has failed and there is reasonable prospect of reconciliation.  Refer to Divorce or No-Fault Divorce.

Irrevocable Consent:

A term used to describe a Consent to Adoption that has been signed by the biological parent of a child that is being placed for adoption, which under state law cannot be revoked after it is signed, unless the court specifically finds that the Consent to Adoption was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation, or by the use force or undue duress on the birth parent.  Refer to Decree of Adoption.

IV-A (“Four-A”) Program:

Public assistance funding under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act in which custodial parent applicants are automatically referred to their state IV-D agency in order to identify and locate the non-custodial parent, establish parentage (paternity) and/or enforce a child support order for the purpose of assisting the state to recoup or defray some of its public assistance expenditures with funds from the non-custodial parent.

IV-D ("Four-D") Program:

Reference to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which established the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and required each state to create a program for the purpose of locating non-custodial parents, determine paternity, establish and enforce financial child support obligations, and collect and distribute support payments.  All recipients of public assistance (TANF) are referred to their State's IV-D child support program for matching validation. States must also accept applications from families who do not receive public assistance, if requested, to assist in collection of financial child support payments.

IV-E ("Four-E") Program:

Reference to Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, which established a Federal-State program known as Foster Care that provides financial support to a person, family, or institution that is raising a child(ren) not their own. The funding for IV-E Foster Care programs is primarily from Federal sources.  As with other public assistance cases, recipients are referred to their State IV-D agency in order to identify and locate the non-custodial parent, determine paternity, establish financial child support orders, and/or enforce payments for children receiving foster care.  Refer to Foster Care.