Glossary

Abduction – removal of a child from their resident parent without permission

Access – see Contact, below

Acknowledgement of Service – form accompanying Divorce Petition to be completed by the Respondent

Acting in person – same as a Litigant in Person, below.

Actuary – someone who is qualified to value the current or future worth of an asset, such as a pension

Adultery – sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex when you are already married to someone else


Affidavit – statement in support of an application, which is signed on oath or affirmed

Agreement – in context of family law, is a verbal or written concord between two people in relation to finances, children or separation.

Alimony – see Maintenance, below

Ancillary relief, now Financial Remedy, see below – the financial aspect of the divorce

Annulment – same as Nullity, see below

Answer – Document filed by the Respondent in divorce or nullity proceedings which sets out his or her response to the grounds of the Petition

Appeal – procedure by which a party applies to a higher court to overturn the decision of a lower court

Applicant – person making the Application

Application – a document giving details of the order being sought from the court.

Barrister— also known as Counsel, a lawyer instructed by solicitors to give advice to, or represent the client in court.

CAFCASS – Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service. It is a non-departmental public body and one of its roles is to give advice to the family courts.

Capitalising maintenance – rolling all the maintenance into one large lump sum and paying it all at once, with no maintenance payable in the future.

Care & Control – see Residence, below

CEB of pension – Cash Equivalent Benefits – valuation of a pension when it is already being received by the pensioner

CETV of pension – Cash Equivalent Transfer Value – valuation of a pension that is not yet being paid out to the pensioner

Charge – usually relates to a property, where the holder of the charge (e.g. a mortgagee) is able to get repaid when the house is sold.

Charging order – a court order to enforce the payment of a debt, usually by forcing the sale of a property

Child maintenance/support  – regular payments for a child’s upkeep

Child Maintenance & Enforcement Commission (C-Mec) – agency which has taken over from the Child Support Agency to assess child maintenance, collect and enforce it

Children’s Guardian – normally a trained social work professional, employed by Cafcass, who represents the interests of the child in care proceedings.

Child Support Agency – current agency tasked with assessment, collection and enforcement of child maintenance.

Clean break – order made by a court in ancillary relief proceedings which cuts off each party’s further financial claims against the other.

Conciliation – court process which assists the parties in reaching an agreement, especially in children cases, where the judge and Cafcass will help the parents to negotiate.

Conciliation Appointment – see First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment below

Confession Statement – document in which Respondent spouse admitted adultery, which was used by Petitioner in their divorce petition. Now rarely used, as Respondent needs to admit the adultery on the Acknowledgement of Service.

Conditional Order – the equivalent of a Decree Nisi in a civil partnership divorce

Conflict of interest – where a solicitor/barrister can’t represent a party because they have advised the other party or have relevant knowledge in relation to the case.

Collaborative Law – way of resolving family proceedings by way of meetings between the parties and their lawyers rather than by going to court

Consent Order – interim or final order agreed by the parties which is approved by a judge and sealed by the court

Contact – the right of a child to see the parent with whom he does not live. Used to be called ‘access’.

Co-Respondent – the person with whom the Respondent has committed adultery, when they are named in the divorce petition

Counsel – see Barrister, above

Court order – a decision made by a judge, whether by consent of the parties or otherwise.

Cross-Decrees – order where both petitioner and respondent (who is the cross-petitioner) in divorce proceedings get a divorce on their petitions.

Cross-examination – where a witness is asked questions by the other party or their representative, after they have given their evidence

Cross-Petition – a petition issued by the Respondent to a divorce petition, alleging that the marriage has broken down for a different reason than that set down by the petitioner, such as the Petitioner’s unreasonable behaviour

Custody – see Residence, below

Decree Absolute – final decree in a divorce, dissolving the marriage and leaving the parties free to remarry

Decree Nisi – the first decree in divorce, before Decree Absolute

Deed – a document signed in the presence of two witnesses

Desertion  – ground for divorce where the Respondent leaves the Petitioner

Disbursements – fees charged by your solicitor to you, such as barrister’s fees, and court fees

Disclosure – each spousemust give full & frank disclosure of their financial situation, so that an agreement or order on finances can be made on the complete facts.

Dissolution– the equivalent of a Decree Absolute in a civil partnership ‘divorce’

District Judge – judge who deals with most cases at the County court

Divorce Petition (new name is Matrimonial Order, rarely used)– application brought by one party to end a marriage

Domicile – the country where you were born, or have spent the majority of your life

Equity – the value of your home on the open market less the mortgage and sale costs

Examination-in-chief – evidence given by a party/witness in support of their statement, when asked questions by their lawyer

Exclusion order – injunction ordering the alleged perpetrator of the domestic abuse to stay away from the victim, either in the same home, or at some distance from the victim’s home.

Ex parte – see Without Notice, below

Filing – lodging documents at court

Financial Dispute Resolution hearing (FDR) – without prejudice hearing in ancillary relief. What is discussed can’t be referred to in correspondence between solicitors or at future court hearings.

Financial Remedy (formerly ancillary relief) – the financial aspect of the divorce

First Appointment (FA) – first hearing in ancillary relief proceedings

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDHRA)(was Conciliation Appointment) – initial hearing after issue of non-emergency children application, where children over 9 and any younger siblings must attend.

Form A – application which kick-starts the ancillary relief proceedings, filed at court and in response to which the court sets the First Directions Appointment

Form E – Financial Statement to be filed by Applicant & Respondent five weeks before the First Directions Appointment

Form G – the document filed before the First Directions Appointment which tells the court and the other party if the maker wishes to proceed to the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing by skipping the First Directions Appointment

Form H – document which is filed just before each ancillary relief hearing, letting the court and the other party how much you have spent on your legal fees
Hearing – a proceeding in front of a judge to determine a particular issue

In chambers – hearing to which the public/media has no right of access

Injunction – order in domestic abuse proceedings preventing the alleged perpetrator from molesting, harassing or threatening/using violence against the victim

Interim hearings – where decisions are made in the meantime, until a final order is made later on. This can be for maintenance and for contact and residence of children

Inter partes – see On Notice, below

Intestacy – a person dying without leaving a Will

Issuing – the court office stamping an application, giving it a case number and entering it on the court system.

Joint Tenancy – joint ownership of a property, whereby each owns 50%, which passes to the other person automatically on death by the right of survivorship. This is how the vast majority of properties are held in the UK.

Judicial Separation – court procedure which allows a married couple to separate, and make financial orders. The couple remains married.

Jurisdiction – rule which allows the court to make an order in a particular case, for example, a Magistrates court can’t deal with a divorce petition, it must be heard in a County court.

Legal aid – see Public funding below.

Litigant in Person – a person who represents himself in court proceedings

M1 – see Statement of Information for a Financial Remedy, below

Mackenzie Friend – A person who is able to come into a court hearing with you. They can’t speak for you but can give you moral support. They can help you draw up documents but can’t charge for their time.

Maintenance – regular payments made by one person to another for their support and upkeep.

Maintenance Pending Suit – payments made to a spouse during divorce or ancillary relief proceedings until a final order/agreement is reached at the end of the case.

Matrimonial Home – property lived in by the married couple during the marriage/civil partnership. It doesn’t need to be held jointly to be called this.

Matrimonial Order – new name for Divorce Petition, rarely used.

Matrimonial Home Rights – entitlement to live in the matrimonial home by virtue of the marriage, even where it is owned in the sole name of the other party.

Mediation – non-court based way of resolving your dispute involving meeting with a neutral third party who may or may not be legally qualified. The mediation is confidential and privileged and can’t be referred to in court proceedings, unless both parties agree, or if an agreement is reached.

Mediator – a neutral third party who meets with both parties to a dispute to help them resolve it. He may not necessarily be legally qualified.

Memorandum of Understanding – document drawn up in mediation which reflects the agreement reached between the parties. It is not legally binding and a court order must be drawn up and approved by a judge on those terms

Minutes of Order – see Consent Order, above

Money purchase or defined contribution scheme – private pension scheme, the value of which is built up from contributions made to it by the pension scheme member.

Mortgagee – financial institution which makes a loan which is secured as a charge against a property

Mortgagor – person who owes money to a financial institution which is secured against the mortgagor’s property

Mutual exchange – parties to a case sending documents to each other at the same time, so that one of them does not gain the advantage by seeing the other’s documents first and having an opportunity to reply before sending theirs off

Nominal order – regular payment order for maintenance which is not actually paid, but gives the receiver the right to make an application to increase the amount payable if circumstances change for the worse.

Non-molestation order – order in domestic abuse proceedings preventing the alleged perpetrator from molesting, harassing or pestering the victim

Non-resident parent (NRP) – the parent with whom the child does not live for the purposes of making a child maintenance assessment by the Child Support Agency

Nullity – a procedure by which a declaration is made that the marriage is null & void, and is treated as if it never took place.

Occupation order – order in domestic abuse proceedings preventing the alleged perpetrator from using or threatening violence against the victim, in general by making them leave the home or not go into certain parts of it.

Occupational scheme – company pension scheme, the value of which is built up from contributions made to it by the employer of the pension scheme member.

On Notice hearing – hearing which both parties attend

Open offer/correspondence – letters between solicitors which can be referred to in other letters or at any hearing before a judge.

Order – a ruling by the court on a particular issue, determining an issue for the parties, or approving an agreement.

Parent with care (PWC) – the parent with whom the child lives for the purposes of making a child maintenance assessment by the Child Support Agency

Parental Responsibility – all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child. If you were or have been married, you both have parental responsibility for your child.

Parental Responsibility Agreement – a document whereby one person gains parental responsibility for a child. It must be witnessed and lodged before it is valid.

Participation Agreement  –  document signed by both parties and their lawyers during collaboration. The agreement says that the parties must resolve their family proceedings by way of meetings between the parties and their lawyers rather than by going to court. If either party does breach the agreement by issuing court proceedings, both parties must find different lawyers to represent them in those proceedings

Party – person involved in a court case and therefore entitled to attend all on notice hearings and see all documents filed in the proceedings

Penal notice – an order making a person do something by a certain date. If they fail, the person who applied for the order can apply for the defaulter’s committal to prison.

Periodical Payments – regular maintenance payments, usually made in ancillary relief proceedings

Petitioner – person who brings a court application to end a marriage

Pleadings – documents which are evidence in legal proceedings

Prayer – application for something; usually for a party’s costs to be paid by the other, or to ask for a particular order. It is a standard provision at the end of the Divorce Petition

Prohibited Steps Order – court order preventing one person from doing something in relation to a child, such as taking them out of England & Wales.

Property adjustment order – court order transferring ownership of a property

Public funding – financial assistance from the government with your legal fees , usually by way of loan. Used to be known as Legal Aid.

Questionnaire – also known as Request for Information & Documents: list of questions asked by one spouse of the other, usually after the Form E has been filed at court during financial proceedings.

Recovered or preserved – money or property gained or obtained during legal proceedings

Registrar – see District Judge, above.

Reply – document filed by the Petitioner in response to a Cross-petition, filed by the Respondent in divorce proceedings

Request for Information & Documents – see Questionnaire, above

Reserved costs order – decision made by a judge postponing to a later hearing an order to make one person pay the other’s costs.

Residence – order which fixes with whom a child shall live

Respondent – person who receives court proceedings issued by the Petitioner or Applicant

Rule 2.61 Statement – see Statement of Information for a Financial Remedy, below

Sealing by the court – approval of a order by the court, and affixing the official court stamp on it

SERPS – State Earnings Related pension, now replaced with the State Second Pension

Service – delivery of a document, by hand, or by post etc

Settlement – an agreement between a couple in relation to their case, usually financial

Special Procedure – court process through which undefended divorce goes

Specific Issue Order – court order allowing a person to do something in relation to a child, such as changing their school

Statement of Information for a Financial Remedy – used to be known as an M1/ Rule 2.61 Statement, sets out a simple summary of your respective finances for the court, and your current intentions and living arrangements.

State Second Pension – see SERPS, above

Statutory Charge –financial assistance with your legal fees from the government which must be paid back from the money or property that you have gained or retained as a result of the proceedings.

Subpoena – a legal document issued by way of High Court order requiring someone to attend at a hearing and/or bring documents with them. This is referred to as a Witness Summons in the County Court.

Summons – court order requiring someone to attend at a hearing

Tenancy in Common – joint ownership of property where if one owner dies, their share passes into the deceased’s estate rather than automatically going to the other owner

Testimony – evidence given by a party/witness under oath at a court hearing

Transcript – word-for-word typewritten record of a court hearing

Undefended Divorce – where the divorce is not opposed

Undertaking – formal and enforceable promise given by a party or their lawyer to do or not to do something within court proceedings

Unfunded scheme – a company pension scheme which promises a right to a pension to the employee

Without Notice hearing – hearing at which only the applicant attends, usually on an emergency application

Without prejudice – usually marked on letters, especially offers to settle, which can’t be referred to in hearings (except at Without prejudice hearings such as an Financial Dispute Resolution hearing) or in open correspondence.