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  • A

    Acknowledgement of Service – A document which is filed at court by the Respondent to indicate that he/she has received the application and indicates how he/she intends to proceed.

    Adjournment – Where a court hearing is postponed to another day.

    Adultery – Voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married to each other but one of whom at least is a married person.

    Advocate – A barrister or a solicitor representing a party in a hearing before a court.

    Affidavit – A written statement that is sworn to be true by the person signing it. It is sworn before someone authorised by the court.

    Affirm – To solemnly promise to tell the truth. This can also be in the form of an affidavit.

    Alimony – This is an American term for the English equivalent of Maintenance.

    Ancillary Relief (Financial Orders)  – Old term for application for a financial order additional claims arising out of a divorce, judicial separation or nullity petition.

    Annual Accounts – Businesses’ financial details during the year covered by the accounts.

    Annul or Annulment – An annulment ends an invalid marriage. A marriage is only invalid if certain criteria are met, if not the marriage can be annulled instead of having a divorce.

    Antenuptial Agreement – A legal agreement entered into to regulate the financial affairs between parties before marriage in the event of a future separation or divorce. commonly referred to as a pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreement.

    Appeal – A request to challenge and overturn a lower court’s decision.

    Applicant – the person within a couple, who starts the divorce process by filing a divorce application

    Articles of Association – Documents that sent out the rules of a company.

    Asset – Is something which is owned, for example, a building, property or cash at the bank.

    Assign – To transfer an asset and/or ownership to another person.

    Assignment – The formal transfer of rights to an asset to another person.

    Assurance – Insurance cover, for example, in the event of death.

  • B

    Balance Sheet – A summary of a company’s financial position.

    Barrister – A member of the bar: the branch of the legal profession which is able to speak in court, has “rights of audience” before all courts.

    Beneficial Interest – Where someone has the benefit of a certain asset.

    Bigamy – Offence committed by someone who is already married but goes through a marriage ceremony with somebody else.

    Brief to Counsel – A document prepared by a solicitor which contains the instructions for a barrister to follow when acting for the solicitor’s client in court or providing specialist advice.

  • C

    CAFCASS – Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Services. The government agency which looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. It works with children and their families, and then advises the courts on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests. CAFCASS only works in the family courts.

    Capital Gain – The profit / gain if an asset is sold or disposed of.

    Capital Gains Tax – A tax which can be charged on certain capital gains.

    Chargeable event – An event which may create a tax liability.

    Child – Legally speaking this is a person under 18 years of age.

    Child Abduction – The unauthorised removal of a child from the care of a person with whom he or she normally lives.

    Child Arrangement Order – This type of order replaces ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ orders. This type of order will regulate with whom a child is to live and have contact with any person.

    Child Support Agency (CSA) – A former government agency responsible for the calculation, collection and payment of child support maintenance. The CSA was replaced by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) in 2012.

    Child Support Maintenance – The amount of money (maintenance) the parent not living with their child must pay.

    Civil partnership – A legal relationship similar to a marriage but only available to same sex couples to create the same rights and obligations as a marriage.

    Clean Break – Term used when a husband and wife settle their finances on the basis that neither will be able to make any future claim in respect of capital, assets or income by way of maintenance.

    CMS or Child Maintenance Service – Also known as the Child Support Agency (CSA). A government agency responsible for the calculation, collection and payment of child support maintenance.

    Conditional order – an order that says the court doesn’t see any reason you can’t divorce or separate. It is often referred to as the “first stage” in the divorce process.

    Cohabitation – Parties living together as husband and wife who are not married. Cohabitees do not have the same legal rights as a married couple.

    Cohabitation Agreement – Sometimes known as Living Together Agreements. It is a form of legal document which sets out what will happen to any money, property or possessions if you separate.

    Common Law Marriage – There is no legal concept of common law marriage however, people still refer to this term when a couple cohabit.

    Compromise – To resolve a dispute by mutual agreement without recourse to court.

    Conciliation – A structured process in which parties to a dispute meet voluntarily with one or more impartial third party to help them explore the possibilities of reaching agreement without having the power to impose a settlement upon them, or the responsibility to advise any party individually.

    Consent Order – An order of the court setting out the terms of an agreement between the parties.

    Contact Centre – A supervised venue to support and promote contact between parents, grandparents, guardians and children that do not live together.

    Contact Order – This is now a child arrangement order of the court which sets out the contact (visitation) which a child is to have with a non-resident parent.

    Contempt of Court – This is where a party is in breach of a court order and is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.

    Co-Respondent – The person named in the divorce petition as the person with whom the respondent has committed adultery. It is not necessary for a co-respondent to be named.

    Corporation Tax – Tax which a company pays on profits.

    Costs – The costs incurred to pursue an action in law which can include court fees, counsels fees and experts fees.

    Counsel – Another name for a barrister

    Cross action – Scottish name for Cross Petition

    Cross petition – A petition by the Respondent in a divorce alleging different reasons for a divorce.

    Custody – This term now refers to “residence” i.e. with whom a child lives. There are now ‘child arrangement orders’ that set out these rights.

  • D

    Defences – Scottish term for a reply to a divorce petition , known as an “Answer” in England and Wales.

    Directions – Orders made by the court laying down the procedural steps to be taken by the parties.

    Disbursement – A payment made to a professional person for services rendered e.g. barrister, accountant etc.

    Disclosure – Providing details relevant to your case e.g. financial disclosure is disclosure of your income, assets and liabilities.

    Dissolution proceedings – The process of ending a civil partnership

    District Judge – A judge who will hear your case at court and make any orders necessary.

    Divorce – The legal end to a marriage and/or the process to bring about the end of a marriage.

    Divorce application – The application form (D8) to commence the process of divorce to legally end the marriage

    Domicile – The country and place which is your permanent home.

    Domicile of Choice – A country in which you make a new home intending it to be permanent.

    Domicile of Origin – The domicile that a newborn child has. This is usually the father’s domicile or, if the father is dead, the mother’s domicile.


The country and place which is your permanent home.

  • E

    Expert witness – An expert in a particular field who is to provide a report, opinion or evidence to a court.

  • F

    Fact – a thing that is known or proved to be true

    Family Court – There is now a single-family court (previously the county court or magistrates’ court)

    Family Division – A section of the high court dealing with family law cases.

    Final Hearing – The hearing at which the court will make the final determination in relation to any application before it.

    Final order – the last stage of divorce and legally ends your marriage or civil partnership.

    Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR) – This hearing takes place within financial proceedings on divorce. it is often referred to as a “FDR” hearing and it is where parties attempt to negotiate a financial settlement before a judge and with assistance from the judge. The judge is privy to without prejudice offers between the parties but the judge cannot impose a final decision upon them.

    Financial Remedies – The financial orders that a court can make when a couple get divorced including orders dealing with ownership of property, orders to pay lump sums, orders to pay maintenance and orders to split / share pensions.

    First Directions Appointment (FDA) – First hearing in ancillary relief proceedings (now financial remedy proceedings). the purpose of this hearing is to define the issues, save costs, make directions in relation to the future conduct of the case and, where possible, reach a settlement.

    First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) –

    Form A – The application for a financial remedy.

    Form E – The divorce statement setting out financial information and documents in support of financial proceedings.

    Form H – A statement setting out the legal costs incurred and to be incurred by a party in financial proceedings.

    Freezing orders – An order which freezes somebody’s assets and prevents them from drawing money from a bank account or disposing of assets, property, shares etc.

  • G

    Guardian – A person appointed to look after the interests of a child.

  • H

    Hague Convention – A convention signed by a number of countries to enforce rights of custody and prevent wrongful removal of children. This is usually something which relates to children in the context of family law often relating to alleged child abduction

  • I

    Injunction – A court order which usually prevents somebody from doing something, this may be harassing or threatening someone, preventing them from drawing money from a bank account or disposing of an asset.

Hague Convention

A convention signed by a number of countries to enforce rights of custody and prevent wrongful removal of children.

  • J

    Joint applicants –  a couple making a joint application for divorce. The person to initiate the joint application is called applicant 1 and the other party will be applicant 2.

    Joint and Several Liability – Two or more people are responsible for repaying a debt.

    Judge – A person who is to adjudicate and make a decision in a court case.

    Judgment -A decision by a court.

    Judicial Separation – A different set of proceedings which is like the divorce process but where the court approves formal separation of parties to a marriage but not actually dissolving the marriage. Often used when religion will not allow divorce proceedings.

    Jurisdiction – The location where a court has the power to deal with a case and make certain orders. This relates to the question of which court has the power to decide a particular issue. Often it may be international jurisdiction i.e. which country’s courts have the relevant authority. Sometimes there can be two different countries that could have jurisdiction. Such enquiries must be put through to a solicitor urgently with international experience who can consider how urgent the enquiry is. The reason is that the outcome of a divorce and particularly a financial settlement can be different in two different countries and there can often be a race to be the first to issue in the preferred jurisdiction.

  • L

    Liabilities – The debt that a person or organisation owes to another

    Life Assurance Policy – Contract between the policy holder and the insurance company often to pay out in the event of death.

    Life Assured – The person whose life is assured by the life assurance policy.

    Litigant – A person involved in a court case or legal proceedings

    Litigation – The process of taking legal action before a court within proceedings.

    Lump Sum Order – In ancillary relief proceedings (financial remedy proceedings) an order that one party to the marriage pay the other party a fixed sum of money either in one payment or by instalments.

  • M

    Maintenance – Child support or monies to be paid to another party / spouse and legally referred to as “periodical payments”.

    Maintenance Pending Suit – In financial remedy proceedings a party can apply for interim periodical payments which the court may order before the conclusion of the proceedings.

    Matrimonial Home, Marital property – The family home where a husband and wife lived together when married.

    Mediation – A process before an independent person (and not before a court) where parties attempt to reach an agreement and resolve a dispute.

    Memorandum and Articles of Association – The memorandum gives details of the company’s name, its purposes and share capital. the articles set out the members’ rights and the directors’ powers.

    MIAM – Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting – the initial meeting in mediation to discuss initial details of the case and decide if mediation is going to be helpful.

  • N

    No Order Principle – Under s.1 of the children act 1989, a court must not make an order unless it considers that making an order is in the child’s best interest.

    Non-molestation orders – These are types of domestic violence injunction which prevent somebody from molesting, harassing, assaulting or pestering somebody else and an occupation order can compel somebody to move out of a house or it can sort out arrangements for how two people are to live at the same property in the interim

    Nullity – A void or voidable marriage

  • O

    Oath – Swearing that a statement given to the court is true

    Occupation Order – An order regulating occupation of a home. It includes the power to either allow a person back into a home or to exclude a person from a home and/or from a defined area in which the home is included.

    Official Solicitor – An officer of the supreme court who is invited to act for people who cannot act for themselves for example, children or people who lack capacity.

    Order – A direction, instruction or command of the court.

  • P

    Parental Involvement – There is now a principle that both parents should be involved in a child’s life following divorce or separation.

    Parental Responsibility – All rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to a child and his/her property. For example, determining what school a child should attend, determining a child’s religion, consenting to medical treatment. Married parents have joint parental responsibility. If parents are not married, only the mother automatically has parental responsibility. However, an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility in any one of six ways.

    Pension Earmarking – Order in divorce or nullity proceedings allowing the court to order the pension scheme of one party to divert a portion of the pension or lump sum to the other party.

    Pension Sharing Order – Order in divorce or nullity proceedings allowing the court to provide that one party’s shareable rights under a pension scheme (which may include any pension, lump sum or gratuity, given on or in anticipation of retirement) be subject to a pension sharing for the benefit of the other party through specifying a percentage value to be transferred. This order splits the pension before retirement.

    Periodical Payments Order, Periodical allowance, Periodical payments – In financial remedy proceedings an order that either party to the marriage shall make to the other such periodical payments, for such term, as may be specified by the order.

    Post Nuptial Agreement – This is similar to a prenuptial agreement but is entered into during the course of the marriage and not before.

    Pre Nuptial Agreement – An agreement entered into between parties before marriage often to regulate financial affairs should they separate or divorce.

    Prohibited steps order – An order made within children proceedings to prohibit or forbid a certain act e.g. taking a child away from the other parent without permission.

    Property Adjustment Order – In the financial remedy proceedings, an order that a party to the marriage shall transfer or settle such property specified in the order to or for the benefit of the other party or child of the family.

Prohibited steps order

An order made within children proceedings to prohibit or forbid a certain act e.g. taking a child away from the other parent without permission.

  • Q

    Quickie divorce – despite media reports, there is no such thing as a quickie divorce.

  • R

    Residence Order – An order of the court that deals with whom a child should live and how much time is spent with the other parent.

    Respondent – The person who is responding to a divorce application that has been issued by the applicant.

  • S

    S.37 order – This is a type of order like a freezing order i.e. it is a financial injunction

    Sale of Property Order – In financial remedy proceedings, where a court makes a secured periodical payments order, lump sum order or property adjustment order, it may make further order for the sale of such property as may be specified in the order.

    Section 8 Order – Order under section 8 of the children act 1989, namely residence order, contact order, prohibited steps order or specific issue order.

    Secured Periodical Payments Order – In financial remedy proceedings an order that either party to the marriage shall secure to the other to the satisfaction of the court, such periodical payments for such term as may be specified in the order.

    Separation – When parties end a relationship and it is not necessarily limited to physical separation.

    Solicitor – A lawyer who advises a party and provides legal advice

    Specific Issue Order – An order which deals with an issue e.g. schooling, medical treatment, an order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific questions which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child for example, in relation to name, education, school and so no.

    Statement of Arrangements – This is no longer required in divorces (previously it was a form used with the divorce petition when starting this process and where there are children).

    Statement of Information – A statement setting out details of parties’ finances in summary form and filed when a consent order is lodged at court setting out the terms of a financial settlement.

  • T

    TOLATA – Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996

    Transferee – The person who receives e.g. an asset where it is transferred to them

    Transferor – The person who transfers e.g. an asset to another person (the transferee).

    Trust – A financial arrangement under which a property / asset is held by named people for another party.

    Trust Deed – A legal document used for example, to create a trust.

    Trustee – A person who holds an e.g. asset on behalf of another party

  • U

    Undertaking – A formal and binding promise to the court which can be enforced as a contempt of court.

  • W

    Ward of Court – Usually a minor child who is protected by the high court

    Warranty – A term in a contract

    Welfare Checklist – Under s.3 of the children act 1989, where a court is considering whether to make a section 8 order it is directed to have regard to the following particular circumstances:

    Will – A legal document where a person leaves money / assets in the event of death.

    Without Prejudice – A document which is marked as so cannot be referred to within court proceedings and is commonly used when a person makes an offer

    Witness – A person who makes a statement and / or is to give evidence to a court.


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