Glossary of Legal Terms
Know your legal terms
Know your legal terms
An official document containing all the details of the accident.
A person who has allegedly committed a criminal offence like theft, rape or murder.
A person appointed by a Magistrate’s Court to collect and distribute payments of the debtor amongst his/her creditors.
A written statement made under oath before a Commissioner of Oaths, for example, a member of the South African Police Service or an attorney.
Factors given by the employer to convince the chairperson that the employee must be dismissed or some other sanction should be given. Examples of aggravating circumstances of the employer include the disciplinary record of the employee (previous warnings for similar misconduct); impact of the misconduct on the employer; breakdown of the trust relationship; the level of seniority of the employee; and so on.
A contract entered into to regulate whether a marriage will be out of community of property with/without the accrual system. An ante nuptial contract must be signed by the persons entering into a marriage, two witnesses and a notary public, and it must be registered in the Deeds Registries office within the prescribed time period.
Where a court gives a judgment based on the papers placed before it (such as an affidavit). There is no verbal evidence given in court.
A letter of undertaking from the bank that the purchase price of the property will be paid upon its registration in the deeds office.
The distribution of property in terms of a Will.
A juristic person, for example, a company, partnership, body corporate and so on.
For example, a mother finds out that her child is being abused by his/her father and applies to the court to have the order in respect of contact cancelled.
The right of a parent to have his/her child reside primarily with him/her and to control or supervise the daily life of that child.
A person other than a parent or guardian who has the right to care for a child. Care is the right of that person to have a child reside primarily with him/her and to control or supervise the daily life of that child.
The person chairing the disciplinary hearing. The chairperson must be independent, fair and objective.
For example, a father decides that he would like to see his child every 2 months instead of every alternate weekend, because he is moving from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
A person under the age of 18 years.
A special court dealing with matters relating to children. Every Magistrate’s Court shall be a Children’s Court and the High Court is the upper guardian of all children.
A certificate from the municipality that confirms that all amounts in respect of the property have been paid in full for the last two years.
A written agreement concerning the terms and conditions of employment or any other matter of mutual interest concluded between registered trade unions, employers and/or registered employer organisations.
A presiding officer in the SCC who listens to both parties, considers the evidence and makes a judgment.
Many persons believe that by living together for a certain amount of time, they enter into a common law marriage. Such a marriage does not exist and the persons are only protected through a cohabitation agreement.
Money in recognition of work, work-related injury or disease.
When an employee resigns because their employer's behaviour became so intolerable at work that s/he had no choice but to resign.
The employees who are likely to be affected by the retrenchment, or their workplace forum, registered trade union or elected representatives, or any person elected in terms of a collective agreement.
To maintain a personal relationship with a child and allowing a person to see, spend time with or communicate with a child.
Where a debt arises from a contract between the debtor and creditor, for example, a personal loan.
The result of a criminal trial which was concluded and the accused was found guilty of the criminal offence charged.
Includes a man and a woman or same sex relationships.
Act or omission (a failure to act when a person should have acted) punishable by law.
A person appointed by a High Court to manage a person’s estate as s/he cannot manage his/her own affairs.
A parent who lives with the child and takes care of the child on a day to day basis.
A document that proves ownership and contains important information about the property, for example, it identifies the property, the reason for transfer of ownership and the details of the old owner and the existing owner.
A government office that maintains a register of all property within its area.
When a person (mortgagor) borrowed money from a financial institution (bank) to buy a property, breaches (default) the loan agreement (mortgage), which may lead to the sale of that property.
A reason the wrongdoer provides to remove or limit the claim of the plaintiff.
The person against whom legal action has been instituted.
Prescription is suspended (put on hold) to a later date and does not start running afresh.
Where a debt arises from damages caused by the debtor to the creditor, for example, from a motor vehicle accident.
A person who was reliant on the employee’s salary at the time of his/her death such as widower or child under the age of 18 years.
When a dispute is not regulated by any law, but it is relevant to the workplace and the employment relationship.
A cleaner of or helper in a household; gardener; driver of a motor vehicle for a household; or a person who cares for children, the sick or aged. A farm worker is excluded.
Certificate issued by a registered person stating that the electricity is in accordance with the necessary regulations.
A person who works for another person, receives remuneration and who assists in the carrying on of the business of the employer.
A person who has entered into a contract of employment with a debtor.
A service where the interruption of it will endanger the life, personal safety or health of persons for example, the police or fire fighting services.
A board that regulates the conduct of a person performing services of an estate agent.
An order obtained from court by the landlord forcing the tenant to vacate the property.
Documents, witness statements, photographs, video footage and so on.
Where a court gives a judgment based on the papers placed before it (such as an affidavit) and there is only one party to the application. There is no verbal evidence given in court. The court will issue a provisional order and provide a date on which the affected party can appear in court to give reasons why the order should not be made final.
A person appointed by a testator in the Will to see to the administration of his/her estate in terms of the Will.
When something comes to an end.
An institution that assists with family matters, such as divorces, and makes recommendations in respect of children’s best interests.
Is a court order confirming an interim protection order, preventing the respondent from harassing the complainant. It will be issued if the court is satisfied that the harassment exists.
A certificate issued by a registered person stating that any gas appliances present in the property are safe according to the applicable standards.
Both husband and wife are guardians of a child born from the marriage; the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the guardian, unless the father acquires guardianship, for example, by living in a permanent life-partnership with the mother; or the court may appoint a guardian. Guardianship includes safeguarding the child’s property or property interests; representing the child in legal matters; and consenting to marriage, adoption, removal from South Africa, or an application for a passport.
Includes safeguarding the child’s property or property interests; representing the child in legal matters; and consenting to marriage, adoption, removal from South Africa, or an application for a passport.
Is property that cannot be moved, for example, a house, sectional title unit or farm.
A sexual relationship between persons who are closely related, for example, brothers and sisters or a father and his daughter.
A person indemnifies another person from liability by giving up his/her right to sue a person when s/he suffers damages, loses something or gets injured.
A person (“contractor”) being hired by another person (“contractor”) to do specific work, for example, a contractor undertaking to build, repair or do something (services) within a certain period of time, and a business undertaking to pay him/her. A contractor is not under the control of the business, thus independent; s/he is must just produce the required results within a period of time. A business does not have to contribute to unemployment insurance, injuries on duty, skills development for a contractor or register him/her with the Department of Labour or SARS.
A court order that prohibits a person from committing a certain act.
Is a court order confirming temporary protection, prohibiting the respondent from harassing the complainant. It is generally issued on the first day when the complainant applies for a protection order.
The prescription period is broken and will start running afresh.
When a person dies without leaving a Will.
Any joint wrongdoer may be liable for damages and if one joint wrongdoer pays the plaintiff individually, then s/he can claim a contribution from the other joint wrongdoer/s.
A decision by a court that resolves a dispute and determines the rights and obligations of the parties (for example, payment of money). A judgment is the final part of a court case.
To be fair and reasonable after considering all the relevant facts and circumstances of an application.
The owner of the property or a person duly authorised by the owner of the property to be in charge of the property. The landlord may rent out a property to a tenant.
A lease agreement is entered into when one person, the landlord, gives use and enjoyment of his/her property (for example, a house, flat or room) to another person, the tenant, for a specific period of time in return for the payment of rent.
Not everyone can afford the fees and expenses charged by attorneys. There are different forms of legal aid available to these persons, for example, pro bono legal services, Legal Aid Board, law clinics, justice centres and legal insurance.
Paying back the home loan granted by a bank or other financial institution.
A special court dealing with matters relating to maintenance. Every Magistrate’s Court shall be a Maintenance Court.
A person appointed to assist with maintenance matters at court.
With or in bad faith by being intentionally dishonest, by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations or by misleading another person.
A person in South Africa can get married in terms of a civil marriage, customary marriage, religious marriage, or a civil union.
There is one estate between a husband and a wife. Property and debts acquired prior to or during the marriage are shared equally in undivided shares (50%). Both spouses are jointly liable to creditors. This marital regime automatically comes into existence unless another regime is selected.
A person who is authorised to conclude a marriage between two persons, such as ministers of a religion or a person who is appointed as a marriage officer by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Factors given by the employee to convince the chairperson that s/he must not be dismissed, but be given some other sanction. Mitigating circumstances of the employee include his/her length in service; a clean disciplinary record (no previous warnings); whether or not the employee shows remorse; the employee’s personal circumstances, such as whether or not the employee is the sole breadwinner of his/her family; and so on.
Refers to a marriage where a man has one wife at a time.
Where immovable property acts as security for a bond agreement between the debtor and a financial institution, such as a bank.
The failure to take reasonable care, for example, recklessness.
A no-fault dismissal based on economic, structural or similar needs of the employer.
When a supplier sells goods or renders services to make a living. For example, when Mpho buys an old guitar from his uncle Mike (who is a motor vehicle dealer), it will not be in the ordinary course of Mike’s business; the CPA will not apply. However, if Mike sold guitars for a living; the CPA will apply.
The biological father or mother of a child who has full or limited parental rights and responsibilities over his/her child.
To care for a child, maintain contact with the child, act as guardian of the child and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
A certificate issued by a registered person stating that the property is free of infestation of wood destroying insects or fungi.
An ordinary consumer, with an average education and minimal knowledge on the goods or services being advertised, sold or rendered, must be able to, or expected to be able to, understand the words used.
The person who institutes legal action against another.
Refers to a marriage where a man has more than one wife at a time.
A legal document that allows a person to perform a certain act on behalf of another person.
A person who wastes money in an irresponsible and extravagant manner.
A place where a person can live in, for example, a house, room, flat, garage or similar structure built on land used for housing purposes.
It is an order made by a court that prevents the respondent from causing domestic violence to the complainant and can be interim or final. The protection order may contain certain terms and conditions that a respondent must comply with, for example, the protection order can state that the respondent is not allowed to make any contact with the complainant or to go near the complainant.
A test used to decide what a normal person would have done under the circumstances in that particular situation.
The employee will get his/her job back, as if s/he was never retrenched.
An independent body that resolves disputes between landlords and tenants.
Suggestions that the consulting employees may come up with in response to certain matters.
Include a written warning, final written warning, suspension without pay or dismissal.
Minimum terms and conditions for employees in a specific sector and area, for example, taxis, contract cleaning services, domestic workers, civil engineering, learnership, wholesale and retail, farm workers, private security and so on.
Unwelcome sexual attention, behaviour, suggestions, messages, or remarks of a sexual nature that offends, intimidates or humiliates the complainant; a promise or reward for sexual deeds; or a sexual threat.
A court official instructed by the court to serve court documents to a person or attach a person’s property.
Persons married in terms of a civil marriage, customary marriage, religious marriage or civil union, which includes same-sex marriages.
Written notification to appear in the Tribunal on a certain date and time.
A document that usually starts legal procedure in a court.
A document issued by the court, authorising the police to arrest the respondent. The actual arrest is delayed until the respondent fails to comply with a condition ordered by the court.
Conditions included by the buyer or the seller which must be fulfilled for the agreement to become a binding sale agreement. These conditions allow the buyer or the seller to cancel the agreement, without penalty, if one or more of the conditions are not met within an agreed period of time.
A person renting a property from a landlord, and is also referred to as a lessee.
A person who makes a Will.
An employee who loses his/her work as a result of his/her dismissal, fixed-term contract coming to an end, or the insolvency or death of his/her employer. An employee cannot claim from the UIF if s/he resigned.
For example, unacceptable living conditions, such as overcrowding or hygienic issues; non-payment of rent; non-refund of deposit; non-compliance with the Rental Housing Act and so on.
A term used to describe a contract as being invalid and unenforceable.
When the employee enters into an agreement with his/her employer to be retrenched, not to claim unfair dismissal and not to claim additional pay, in return for payment of a retrenchment package which includes his/her severance pay, leave, other pay s/he is legally entitled and additional benefits. An agreement will come into force on acceptance of the voluntary retrenchment offer.
A document issued by a magistrate or judge of the court, authorising the police to arrest the accused.
A document instructing the sheriff of the court to attach a person’s property, for example, his/her furniture.
A child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of the child's conception or at any time after the birth of the child.
This is identical to a “marriage out of community of property” but the accrual system will be applicable. The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the larger estate must pay the smaller estate once the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce. Only property acquired during the marriage can be considered when calculating the accrual. The accrual system does not automatically apply and must be included in an ante nuptial contract.
The spouses have their own estates which contain property and debts acquired prior to and during the marriage (“what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours”). Each spouse is separately liable to his/her creditors. Prior to the marriage, an ante nuptial contract must be entered into to indicate that the marriage will be out of community of property.
A document in which a person makes sure that his/her belongings are distributed in accordance with his/her wishes after his/her death.
A person who sees or hears something relevant to the criminal offence before court.
Something an employer does because s/he wants to, not because s/he has to, for example, holding a year-end function.
Includes the intention to cause damage or negligence that caused damage.
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