HomeAn A-Z guide of essential family law termsDivorce & Family LawAn A-Z guide of essential family law terms

An A-Z guide of essential family law terms

Divorce and Family law terms

At The Divorce & Family Law Specialists we pride ourselves on giving advice in plain easy to understand English. It is often the case, however, that lawyers and the courts use legal terminology. This glossary is intended to provide a simple definition for each of the legal terms you may come across.

Acknowledgement of Service

This is a form sent to the Respondent by the court when an application for divorce is started. 

Address for Service

The address given by a party stating where documents or correspondence can be sent to them.


Moving / relisting a court hearing to take place on different date and/or time.


An Affidavit is a written statement sworn on oath. In the case of divorce proceedings, the purpose of filing an Affidavit is to inform the court that everything in your divorce petition remains true and accurate. You may swear the Affidavit at court free of charge or in the presence of an independent solicitor who will usually charge you a fee of around £5 per Affidavit and £2 per exhibit (document) attached.

Amicable Divorce

An amicable divorce is where a couple agrees to work with one legal professional to end their relationship without acrimony or resentment, but in an environment of mutual respect and dignity.

Ancillary Relief 

A historic term referring to an application for a final remedy because of divorce or dissolution.


The person who makes an application either in relation to a Divorce, Dissolution, children matters, financial matters or injunction proceedings.

Applicant 2

This is the other person in a joint application for Divorce/dissolution.


These are anything of value that you own e.g., property.


CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS officers are independent social workers instructed by the court to prepare reports regarding the children. It is the CAFCASS officer’s role to make recommendations to the Judge concerning the arrangements that he or she consider to be in the best interests of the child. The CAFCASS officer will often meet with the child’s teachers, GP and various other professionals when conducting his or her investigations. The Judge will, in most circumstances, follow the recommendations of the CAFCASS officer when making his final decision.


Cash Equivalent Transfer Value of a pension fund (also referred to as the CEV – the Cash Equivalent Value or CEB– Cash Equivalent Benefit if the pension is in payment).

Child Arrangement Orders

For orders introduced by the Child Arrangements programme 2014 governing where children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. Child Arrangement Orders replace orders for contact and/or residence.

Civil Partnership

This is the equivalent of marriage for same and opposite sex couples and gives them the same legal rights.

Civil Partner 

A civil partner is a person who has entered into a civil partnership to formalise their relationship and commitment to another person, without getting married. Civil partnership offers a couple an alternative to marriage where they gain the same legal rights and recognition as marriage, but without getting married. By entering into a civil partnership, a couple become ‘Civil Partners’.

Clean Break

An order made during/following divorce proceedings bringing financial claims between spouses to an end.

Cohabitation Agreement

A form of legal agreement reached between an unmarried couple who have chosen to live together (whether they are heterosexual or same gender) defining their rights and obligations.

Collaborative process 

A process that enables couples to work together, with the support of their collaborative lawyers to resolve issues arising from a relationship breakdown.

Common Law Marriage 

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

Conditional Order

This is the first stage of a Divorce/Dissolution which confirms you are entitled to a divorce/dissolution and replaces the former term Decree Nisi.

Consent Order

If the parties agree a financial settlement within divorce proceedings this should be incorporated into a legal document to ensure that it remains legally binding on both parties. This document is known as a Consent Order. It should be drafted by a lawyer, signed by both parties (after the taking of full legal advice) and then submitted to the court for approval by a Judge. It is unlikely that either party will be required to attend court, and this is usually a paperwork exercise.

Even if there are no assets of the marriage, it is advisable to enter into a “clean break consent order” to ensure that your former spouse cannot make a financial claim against you in the future, for example, if you inherit.

Contact Order

This order will specify how often the non-resident parent can contact or see the children. Such orders may be undefined, i.e. simply referring to “reasonable contact”. Alternatively contact orders may be defined, containing other provisions such as for ‘staying contact’, which allows for the children to stay with the other parent at regular overnight intervals or such orders may allow only telephone calls and letters, depending upon the circumstances.

Contact Centre

A neutral and safe environment where children can spend time with a parent. The contact can either be supported (takes place in the centre where the staff are available to monitor and check the child is safe) or supervised (takes place in the centre with a member of staff observing the contact at all times and taking notes).


Evidence which is either written or oral to support what you say.

Court fee 

A fee payable to the Court to make an application. For example, the Court fee for a Divorce application.


Disclosure is the process in a divorce of a party providing complete and up to date information about his or her financial position.


Divorce is the legal process for ending a marriage. The divorce itself does not include settling finances or arrangements for any children of the marriage.

Divorce Application

This is the main document in divorce proceedings. It contains factual details, such as the parties’ full names and addresses, the date and place of marriage, and confirms the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The document also contains a request for the court to dissolve the marriage and may also contain financial claims. 


Domicile is a legal point which considers where a person was born, where they are living now and where they plan to live. It is relevant in considering in which country you should apply for divorce.

Ex Parte Hearing

A hearing where one of the parties is not present.  Usually because the matter is urgent.


A Financial Dispute Resolution hearing relates to finances and takes place where the parties are encouraged by the court to come to an agreement.

Final Hearing

The last hearing at which a judge will consider the court bundle, hear evidence from the parties and any witnesses and then make a final order to determine matters.

Final Order 

The final order concludes the divorce/dissolution process and ends your marriage/civil partnership. This term replaces Decree Absolute.

Financial Disclosure

Financial disclosure in divorce is the process where both parties provide details of their income, assets, liabilities, outgoings, and financial needs following a divorce, dissolution, or separation.

Financial Settlement

The terms of agreement in relation to the finances between a husband and wife usually following a divorce/dissolution.

First Appointment

Also referred to as an FDA (First Directions Appointment). This is the first hearing within a financial remedy application and is mainly to deal with case management/administration.

Form A 

The application for a financial order

Form E

A Form E is a document which contains information about your financial status such as your income, assets, and liabilities. 

Former matrimonial home 

The home where a couple resided before separation.

Habitual Residence

This refers to a person’s usual place of residence; the place with which they have a firm and established connection. It is normally based on evidence of a reasonably long-term stay in that country, together with other evidence of the individual’s personal and professional life to demonstrate the continuity of the connection between that person and the place of residence.


The process of starting legal proceedings at Court.

Joint and Several Liability 

Two or more people are responsible for repaying a debt.

Joint Tenancy

A way in which people jointly own property. If a property is owned as a joint tenancy each of the owners has an undivided interest in the whole property. If one owner dies their share will automatically pass to the other owner/s.


The debts that a person or organisation owes to another.

Lump Sum Order

An order of the Court that you or your spouse pay a fixed amount of money. The Court can order you or your spouse to pay a lump sum in one go or in instalments. 

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.


Marriage is a legal contract between a husband and a wife. It creates the concept of joint assets and liabilities.

Matrimonial assets

Assets acquired through the joint efforts of a married couple are considered to be matrimonial assets e.g., family home and savings built up during the marriage.

Matrimonial home

The term used to describe the house that you lived in whilst married.


This is an option for couples unable to reach agreements concerning their children and finances. A mediator assists the husband and wife in discussions of these topics. Any agreement reached at mediation is not legally binding and should therefore be incorporated into a Consent Order if divorce proceedings have been issued, or a Separation Agreement if they have not.


The acronym for a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. This is an initial meeting that is carried out by an authorised family mediator to assess whether mediation is suitable. Anyone seeking to make an application to the family court must first attend a MIAM unless certain exemptions apply.

Non-marital assets or property

Assets brought into the marriage by one spouse only are often referred to as non-matrimonial property e.g., an inheritance, a gift received during the marriage or shares in a family business.

Parental Responsibility

This refers to the established rights and responsibilities a parent has for his or her child before, during and after the divorce proceedings.

Pension Sharing Order

A type of financial order made by the court which shares your pension fund.

Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is a document in which a couple set out how their property, debts, income, and other assets shall be divided should they get divorced in the future.

Prohibited Steps Order

This is a court order prohibiting certain actions of either or both parents in connection with the upbringing of their children, such as moving out of the country or changing a child’s surname.

Property Adjustment Orders 

Orders governing the transfer and/or seal of property within divorce/associated financial remedy proceedings and/or civil partnership proceedings consequent upon the breakdown of civil partnership.

Residence Order

This is a court order specifying with whom a child is to live.


The respondent is the other party in an application for divorce. 

Section 25 Factors

These are factors which are considered by the court when determining the financial arrangements arising because of a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

Separation Agreement

This is for married and unmarried couples who intend to separate and want a legal document drawn up to confirm arrangements for their finances.

Silver Splitters

The term used to describe couples who divorce or separate aged approximately 55 years and over.

Specific Issue Order

A court order determining a specific issue in relation to a child e.g., where they should go to school.


A person’s husband or wife.

Spousal Maintenance

A regular payment of money paid by one spouse or former spouse to the other following the breakdown of marriage. Payments can be ordered by the Court and such payments can be ordered by the Court and orders can be paid for a definite term or under a joint lives order. The joint lives comes to an end on either the recipient’s remarriage, the death of either party or further order.

Statement of truth

Signed verification that the document is correct to the best of that person’s knowledge and belief; if the contents of the document are false the person who has signed it can be in contempt of court.

Tenancy in Common

A way in which people jointly own property. If a property is owned as tenants in common the owners own a set share in the property. If one owner dies their share will not automatically pass to the other owner/s.


A promise to the court to do, or not to do something which is enforceable by way of a fine or ultimately a committal to prison.

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:

• the ascertainable wishes and feeling of the child
• his physical, emotional and educational needs
• the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances
• his age, sex, background, and any other characteristics which the court considers relevant
• any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering
• how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs
• the range of powers available to the court under the Act

Without Prejudice

If correspondence is marked “without prejudice”, then generally speaking, it means that it cannot be produced in court. There are some exceptions to this.

Divorce and Family law terms

Divorce and Family law terms

Divorce and Family law termsDivorce and Family law terms

Divorce and Family law termsDivorce and Family law terms


Divorce and Family law terms

 Divorce and Family law terms  Divorce and Family law terms  

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