Obiter Dictum:

A Latin term meaning “a remark by the way or an aside”, used in reference to a comment statement or observation of a judge that is not a necessary part of the legal reasoning needed to reach the decision in a case, and therefore not binding as legal precedent.


A lawyer's protest about the legal propriety of a question which has been asked of a witness by the opposing attorney, with the purpose of making the trial judge decide if the question can be asked. A proper objection must be based on one of the specific reasons for not allowing a question. These include: irrelevant, immaterial, incompetent (often stated together, which may mean the question is not about the issues in the trial or the witness is not qualified to answer); hearsay (answer received from a third party rather than what was witnessed first-hand); leading (suggesting an answer or putting words in the mouth of a witness); calls for a conclusion (asking for opinion, not facts); compound questioning (two or more questions asked together); or lack of foundation (referring to a document lacking testimony as to authenticity or source).


Term indicating that a person is required to meet the financial terms and conditions of a court or administrative order.


A recurring, ongoing, court-ordered requirement to pay an amount of money in support of another; which may take the form as financial child support, medical support, spousal maintenance, or other such legally determined financial responsibility.  Refer to Child Support Payment, Qualified Medical Child Support Order, Spousal Maintenance.


The person or entity (Federal/state agency), or other institution to which financial child support is owed payment.  Obligee also refers to the custodial party when money is owed to the person with primary custody of the child(ren).  Refer to Custodial Parent.


The person who is legally obligated to pay financial child support, also referred to as the non-custodial parent).  Refer to Non-Custodial Parent.

OCSE (Office of Child Support Enforcement):

The Federal agency established under authority of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act in 1975 with responsibility for the administration of the child support program (development of child support policy; oversight, evaluation, and audits of state child support enforcement programs; and providing technical assistance and training to the state programs).  OCSE operates the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS), which includes the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal Case Registry (FCR). OCSE is part of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Refer to ACF (Administration for Children and Families), HHS (Department of Health and Human Services), IV-D Program, FPLS (Federal Parent Locator Service, NDNH (National Directory of New Hires), FCR (Federal Case Registry).

Obstruction of Justice:

A criminal activity which attempts to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system or law enforcement officers, including threatening witnesses, improper conversations with jurors, hiding evidence or interfering with an arrest.


Amount of money intercepted from a parent’s State or Federal income tax refund, or from an administrative payment such as Federal retirement benefits, in order to satisfy a financial child support debt.  Refer to Intercept or Federal Tax Refund Offset Program.

OBRA (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act):

Federal legislation that established Qualified Medical Child Support Orders (QMCSOs) by mandating that insurance providers and employers offer dependent health coverage to children even if the child is not in the custody of the parent employee enrolled in the benefit plan. Refer QMCSO (Qualified Medical Child Support Orders).

Onus Probandi:

Latin term meaning burden of the proof.  It is a general rule that the party who alleges the affirmative of any proposition shall prove it.  Refer to Burden of Proof.

Open Adoption:

An approved agreement to terminate parental rights but which allows a degree of contact between the birthparents and the adoptive family, as opposed to adoptions in which birth and adoption records are sealed by court order.  Refer to Adoption, Decree of Adoption or Equitable Distribution.


A detailed, written explanation of the court’s judgment citing case precedents, analyzing the facts, the applicable law and the arguments of the attorneys for the parties. Normally the majority opinion identifies the authoring judge, but some brief opinions are labeled "in banc" (by the bench) or "per curiam" (by the court) in which the author is not specified. Majority opinions considered by the court to be worthy of serving as a precedent or involving important legal issues will be published in the official reports available in most law libraries. Refer to Concurring Opinion, Dissenting Opinion or Precedent.

Oral Argument:

The opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges' questions during a trial.


A written instruction from the judge carrying the weight of law, the knowing and willful violation of which constitutes contempt of court.  Refer to Court Order.

Order to Show Cause:

Court order requiring a party to appear and demonstrate the reason(s) why the court should not take a particular course of action. If the party fails to appear or to give sufficient justification why the court should take no action, the court will generally issue a default judgment in favor of the party that made the motion.  Refer to Court Order or Motion.

Ordinary Expenses:

Costs and expenses for necessities such as food, clothing and shelter, but not including luxury items; those expenses that are typical of the family prior to separation and divorce; may include higher priced items for certain families accustomed to spending more on luxury items or purchasing higher priced goods and services.

Out of Wedlock:

Reference to the birth of a child born in a relationship between two persons that were not married at the time of the child's birth.  Refer to Illegitimate or Marriage.


A term when used in the context of a trial means to reject an attorney's objection to a question, witness or admission of evidence.  By overruling the objection, the judge allows the question or evidence in court. If the judge agrees or "sustains" the objection, the court does not allow the question or evidence to be introduced.  In matters of an appeal, an overrule is decided by a court of appeals that a prior appeals decision on a legal issue was not correct and is therefore no longer a valid precedent on that legal question.  Refer to Motion to Strike, Direct Examination or Cross Examination.