Print This Page

A-Z of Divorce and Family Law Terms

At The Divorce & Family Law specialists we pride ourselves on giving advice in plain English. It is often the case, however, that other lawyers and the courts use legal terminology. This section is intended to provide a simple definition for each of the documents you may come across within your case.
This is a form sent to the Respondent by the court when divorce proceedings are started. The Respondent must fill in the form and return it to the court within 7 days of receiving it. The purpose of the form is to inform the court whether the Respondent received the divorce papers, whether he or she intends to defend the proceedings and whether he or she objects to paying the Petitioner’s legal costs.

Sexual intercourse of a penetrative nature with another person of the opposite sex whilst married.

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.

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

These are anything of value that you own eg 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).

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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).

This applies where one party to divorce proceedings, or the court, does not accept the grounds for a divorce.

After considering the divorce papers following receipt of the petitioner’s affidavit the Judge will, in almost all circumstances, send us a Certificate to say that your divorce will be granted. The Judge will fix a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. It will be open to the petitioner to apply for decree nisi to be absolute, i.e. for the divorce to be finalised 6 weeks and 1 day after the decree nisi is pronounced in court.

This is the dissolution of the marriage and constitutes the end of the legal contract between husband and wife. Once this has been granted, your marriage has been dissolved and you are legally single.

This is a document sent to the court by the Petitioner within divorce proceedings (together with an Affidavit and the Respondent’s signed Acknowledgement of Service form) requesting that the Judge consider the papers and grant Decree Nisi.

Disclosure is the 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.

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, children’s names and dates of birth, together with brief details of why the marriage broke down. The document also contains a request for the court to dissolve the marriage, and may also contain financial claims. It is therefore extremely important that you seek legal advice upon the contents of the divorce petition..

Domicile is a legal point which takes into account 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

The application for a financial order

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

The party who files the petition at court is known as the Petitioner. This will be you, if you are bringing the divorce.

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.

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.

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.

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

The respondent is the other party in the divorce. This will be you if your partner is the one filing for divorce.

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

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

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

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

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 recipients remarriage, the death of either party or further order.

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.

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.

This applies where you and your spouse have agreed to obtain a divorce. It assumes that the other party does not formally object to the divorce and that the Court accepts the grounds for divorce without question (which is normally the case).

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.

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

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