Affidavit: A sworn statement provided by a witness and signed in the presence of a notary public. For a sample Affidavit and verification. When debt collectors use affidavits, they are often violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Allegation: A factual or legal assertion, a fact that a party claims is true, or an assertion that the law provides a certain remedy. For example, a Petition is made up of numbered paragraphs containing factual or legal allegations.

Answer: The formal response to a “complaint” or “petition.” The Answer is drafted in numbered paragraphs that correspond to the allegations of the petition, so that you are either admitting or denying each paragraph of the petition against you. See, How to Answer the Petition.

Appeal: A request to the Court of Appeals for a review of the legal decisions and judgments of the trial court. The Court of Appeals is, as they say, a “court of error,” not of “justice,” which means that an appeal will focus on specific rulings of the trial court to determine whether the law was followed; whether the outcome in general was fair or compassionate will usually not concern the Court of Appeals. An appeal must be initiated by a “Notice of Appeal,” and the rules are very particular about the amount of time you would have for filing that notice.

Appearance: Your formal acknowledgment of the lawsuit against you, and your announcement to the court that you are present for purposes of defending the suit. For video, go to Entry of Appearance.

Appellate procedure: The section of the Rules of Civil Procedure which apply to appeals.

Arbitration: a procedure that functions like a just-tried trial. These proceedings are faster than trials and allow less – usually much less – discovery than civil trials, and in addition are almost impossible to overturn on appeal. For these reasons, the debt collectors love them, and we usually suggest you avoid them if possible.

Argument: Legal reasoning and conclusions, including your theories about what the law prohibits or requires. You make an “argument” when you apply the law as you see it to the facts and tell the judge what the outcome should be, not when you merely disagree with something said.

Assign: The process by which one person or company legally transfers its rights to another person.

Assignee: The person or company to whom rights have been legally transferred.

Assignment: The process by which legal rights are assigned from one person to another.

Attachment of assets: The legal process of seizing goods or bank accounts. This is the way the debt collector takes your money out of the bank, and this will typically occur without warning to you or even notice within any specific time, so your first awareness may not be until you start bouncing checks.