Glossary - Family Law

A - G

H - M

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T - Z


Acknowledgement of Service Form

The Respondent has 7 days from the date of receipt of the divorce petition to complete this form and send to the Court. The purpose of this form is for the Respondent to tell the Court they have received the paperwork and they acknowledge that their spouse is seeking a divorce from them.

Address for Service

This is an address given to the Court, to confirm where letters or documents can be sent to.


This means the trial is to be stopped for a short time. It can be relisted for a new date/time.


Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man/woman with someone other than their spouse, who is of the opposite sex.


Someone who is entitled to speak on your behalf and represent you in Court.

Ancillary Relief

This has the same definition as ‘financial remedy’. See below.


Where the Court can determine that a marriage is not valid, and it is treated as though it never existed.


If you are unhappy about a decision made by a Judge, you may appeal. You need the Court’s permission to appeal.


The individual who is making a formal application to the Court. 


Is an alternative form of Dispute Resolution. Arbitration is voluntary, but once you are signed up the arbitrator would make a decision for you, just like a Judge. An arbitrator’s decision is enforceable through the courts.

Barder Event

Barder events are usually classed as unforeseen and unforeseeable events, which invalidate the basis of a financial remedy Order. If such events occur an application must be made to the Court to challenge the Order.


A Barrister is a type of lawyer who can give legal advice but is a specialist in representing clients in Court.

Beneficial Interest

A type of entitlement to land or a house which is not written down.


When an authority is binding upon all Courts below it. This means the lower Courts must follow a decision made by the higher Courts.


A solicitor often writes a brief to a barrister which summarises the key points of a case and can be used as a starting point when instructing a barrister, for a hearing.


This is an organised set of papers which everybody works from in a case.

Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV)

This is the amount of money your pension scheme will offer you if you want to transfer your final salary scheme/defined benefit pension into a defined contribution scheme.

Child Abduction

When a person connected to a child takes them away (or removes them from the jurisdiction) without permission from their parent or carer.

Child Arrangements Order

An Order which sets out arrangements for where a child should live and when, and/or arrangements for who else the child should spend time with.

Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officer

A CAFCASS officer investigates and reports to the Court on issues concerning the welfare of children.

Child support

Child maintenance which is paid by a parent for the child’s needs and expenses. 

Civil Partnership

A relationship entered into by a couple (same-sex or opposite-sex) which is legally registered and provides them with similar legal rights to married couples.

Clean Break

A Court Order which will sever your financial ties with your ex-spouse and protect you from any claims made against your assets in the future.


When a couple live together, but they are not married on in a civil partnership.

Cohabitation Agreement

It is an agreement that can be formed by a cohabiting couple and it sets out how they will divide their assets and liabilities if their relationship were to end. It also sets out their obligations during their relationship.

Collaborative Law

A dispute resolution process for separating couples that aims to help sort out matters without going to Court.

Consent Order

An Order that everyone in the case has agreed to and the Court has approved, relating to the finances.

Contact Centre

A Contact Centre provides a safe place for a child to spend time with their parent. This would usually entail the parent and child/children being supervised individually by a staff member. Alternatively, contact can be supported, whereby staff are able to monitor the contact, but it is not continuously supervised.

Contempt of Court

When a Court Order or Undertaking is broken, this is called contempt of Court. This is punishable by committal or a fine.


Means not agreed. So, a contested hearing is one where there is an issue which cannot be agreed by the parties.

Costs to be Assessed

The assessment of costs is the process by which the Court determines how much should be paid by parties, for legal costs in proceedings.


Is another word for a Barrister.

Cross Examination

Questions asked by one side’s lawyers of a witness called by the other side. The questioning is designed to test evidence provided and find any weaknesses in the oppositions case.

Declaration of Trust

A document made between co-owners which sets out who has a beneficial in the property. It can contain confirmation of the contribution towards the purchase price and specific conditions attaching to the beneficial interest.

Decree Absolute

This is the document that legally ends your marriage.

Decree Nisi

This is known as the first “Decree” in divorce proceedings. It confirms that the Court is agreeable that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Deed of Separation

A type of agreement, also known as a Separation Agreement, when a couple wish to separate, but are not ready to divorce. It also deals with the financial matters upon separation.


This is the timetable the Court will set to ensure the progression of the case. The Court will usually set out key dates by which both parties must complete certain tasks by.

Directions Hearing

A short hearing to make plans and manage the case prior to a final decision being made.


Showing and providing copies of documents which you wish to rely on. This is usually up to date financial information.


The process in which a Civil Partnership ends.


The process in which a marriage ends.   

Duxbury Calculation

The formula used for calculating the lump sum required to achieve a clean break (defined above).

Enforcement Order

An Order the Court can make to make someone comply with an Order. There are different ways to enforce Orders depending on whether they relate to Orders about the financial side of divorce, children matters or a breach of a domestic violence injunction.


Is the amount of money you own in your house. This is the amount of money you have left if you were to sell your house and pay off any debts linked to that property (i.e. a mortgage, sale costs and mortgage penalties (if any)).

Evidence in Chief

The main evidence of a witness. This usually constitutes their witness statement.

Ex Parte

When an individual goes to Court, and the other person does not know about the Hearing. This is usually for urgent cases or emergency applications.

Expert Witness

This is usually a specialist in their field, who produces evidence for a case, when the Court requires an expert opinion.

Fact Finding Hearing

This gives the Court an opportunity to consider evidence to decide if what was alleged happened or not. 


When papers are said to be ‘filed at Court’, it means those documents have been sent to Court and are held on Court record.

Final Hearing

This is where a Judge will consider all papers relating to the case, hear evidence and make a final Order/judgement to finalise a case.

Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR)

A type of hearing in financial cases, whereby the Judge tries to help the parties reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then what is said at this hearing cannot be used at the final hearing.

Financial Remedy

If someone is seeking to start financial remedy proceedings; it means they are entering into proceedings to deal with the division of assets after their marriage/civil partnership has come to an end. The Court cannot do anything about your financial situation until the divorce has been started.

First Directions Appointment (FDA)

This is the first hearing in a financial case, when the Court will set out directions as to what needs to be done before the case can progress.

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA)

This is the first hearing for a case involving children matters. Someone from CAFCASS is likely to speak to both parents to find out the views of each party. A case can be settled here, if possible, and the Court can make an Order. The Court will however consider if there are issues regarding risk of harm that needs to be addressed.  The Court may also ask CAFCASS to prepare what is called a Section 7 report (definition below). If this is the case the court might want to make directions for a fact-finding hearing (definition below).

Form A

Is the form that must be filled in to start the process for financial proceedings.

Form E

Is the form you fill in which provides your financial background. The Court will expect you to disclose all documents relating to your assets/liabilities, whether they help your case or not. This is what is called a ‘duty of full and frank disclosure’.  This is the document your lawyers/ the Court will rely on when determining a financial settlement.


  1. The person responsible for trying to ensure that a child’s welfare is promoted through proceedings.
  2. Where a parent with parental responsibility appoints an individual to act as the child’s guardian if they die.

Habitual Residence

It usually means the place where a person is settled or rooted. It can have different meanings in different contexts.


This is the name given to a type of Order that tells someone not to do something.

Interim Maintenance

Financial support payments made within ongoing court proceedings until such time that a final Order is made by the Court.

Interim Order

This is a temporary Order the Court can make whilst the case is ongoing.


When an application, petition or claim is formally started, it is issued. When something has been issued, it has the Court’s stamp on it.

Joint Tenancy

If a couple own a property as ‘joint tenants’, it means they own it equally. If one owner dies, then their share will pass automatically to the surviving owner.


The decision of a Judge. This can be made orally or in writing. 


The legal power to deal with something. 

Leave of the Court

Permission to do something, obtained from the Court.

Litigant in Person

Someone who acts on their own behalf in proceedings. This means they do not elect to have legal representation.

Litigation Friend

Is someone who can be appointed to make decisions about a case where the original party lacks the mental capacity to manage their own case, either with or without a solicitor. A litigation friend can also be appointed if the party to a case is a child.

Lump Sum Order

This is an Order where a single sum of capital is paid from one party to another.


Payment of ongoing financial support, which can be either spousal or for the parties’ children.

Maintenance Pending Suit

Financial support payments made within ongoing court proceedings until such time that a final Order is made by the Court.

Marital assets

Financial assets obtained by either spouse during the marriage.

McKenzie Friend

Someone who assists a person representing themselves in Court (a “litigant in person”). This can include attending Court, assisting with legal documents, taking notes and providing general support/advice.


One type of alternate dispute resolution, involving individual and joint sessions with an unbiased third party mediator to try and resolve issues.


Stands for Mediation Information Assessment Meeting and is the first meeting with a mediator to discuss mediation and whether it would be effective given all the circumstances. The mediator will complete a Form FM1, which is required in order to commence Court proceedings.

Non-marital assets

Assets that are accrued by one spouse either prior to the marriage or after separation. Examples include inheritances and properties.

Non-molestation order

An Order made by the Court that prohibits a party from intimidating, harassing, threatening and/or communicating with another. It is usually taken out against a person you have lived with, been in a relationship with, or a family member. It can also prevent a party being allowed a certain distance from your property and/or place of work.

Occupation Order

An Order made by the Court which determines who can live in the family home and includes the power to include/exclude a person from the property. It is typically applied for against a spouse, civil partner, family member or cohabitant.

Official Solicitor

A branch of the Ministry of Justice that acts as a litigation friend to a party who has no other alternate option, such as a family member. They represent parties who are vulnerable due to their lack of mental capacity and make decisions on their behalf within proceedings.

Open Correspondence

The opposite of ‘without prejudice’ correspondence. Any open correspondence can be used and relied upon within court proceedings.

Open Offer

Much like open correspondence, an open offer can be disclosed and relied upon at court.

Parental Responsibility

According to Section 3 of the Children Act 1989, this is defined as “all rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. This legislation gives to parents the right to decide certain aspects of a child’s life, such as religion, education, medical treatment, and holidays.

Pension Attachment Order

An order made by the court that requires a pension provider to pay all or a portion of a party’s pension to their ex-spouse when they retire, and the pension is drawn down.

Pension Sharing Order

An order made within the process of financial remedy proceedings that permits a percentage of a party’s pension value to be shared with their spouse.

Periodical Payments Order

An order made within financial remedy proceedings that one party of the marriage pays to the other a set amount for a specified term by way of financial support. It is more commonly referred to as a Maintenance Order.


The document that commences divorce proceedings.


The person who begins divorce proceedings and files the divorce petition with the Court.

Post Nuptial Agreement

A formal document entered into by parties following their marriage to establish how the finances will be divided up should the relationship break down.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement

A formal document entered into by parties prior to their marriage to establish how the finances will be divided up should the relationship break down.

Prohibited Steps Order

An order made by the Court within Children Act proceedings. It prohibits a parent from making certain decisions about their child, such as moving schools or moving the child away from home.

Property Adjustment Order

An order made within financial remedy proceedings that allows the ownership of a property to be adjusted, such as transferring your interest in the property to your spouse.


The party who is responding to a court application made by the Applicant.

Rose Order

Within financial remedy proceedings, such an order is an agreement approved by both parties and the Judge, which amounts to a court order. These types of orders usually occur when an agreement has been reached in principle but requires a more detailed consent order following clarification on outstanding issues, such as up-to-date financial disclosure. The order will be upheld by the Court as approved.

Section 7 Report

A report completed by a CAFCASS officer within Children Act proceedings which provides an independent assessment of the current arrangements for the child. This is then shared with both parties and the Court.

Secured Periodical Payments Order

An order that obliges one party to pay their former spouse periodical payments to support them financially. This can also be ordered to secure payments for the benefit of any children of the marriage.

Serve / Service

Delivering legal documents to a party of the proceedings.

Severance of Joint Tenancy

The process of changing the way a property is held from joint tenants to tenants in common. This is done by lodging a severance application with the Land Registry.

Special Guardianship Order

This appoints an individual, who is a non-parent to the child, to be their special guardian. The order gives the special guardian parental responsibility and places the child with this person on a long-term basis.

Specific Issue Order

An order made within Children Act proceedings in which a Judge will give directions to determine a specific issue that has arisen in relation to an aspect of parental responsibility that the parents cannot agree on. This includes issues such as changing a child’s name or where they should attend school.

Statement of Truth

You confirm that by signing a legal document, the information included is accurate to the best of your knowledge and belief. If any of the information included is incorrect, the person who has signed may be in contempt of court.

Tenants in Common

Another way in which a property can be owned. This differs to joint tenants, as tenants in common are able to set the share of the ownership in the property and control who their share passes to upon their death.


This stands for the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, which grants the Court the ability to resolves disputes arising between unmarried couples/cohabitants about the ownership of property.

TR1 Form

The form used to transfer the legal ownership of a property from one party to the other. It is usually simultaneously completed with the transfer of a lump sum payment from the transferee to the transferor.


A promise or an agreement made to the Court which becomes legally binding. A breach of such a promise could result in a fine or even imprisonment. A common example of an undertaking in family law is one party promising to use their best endeavours to release the other party from their obligations to a mortgage.

Vacating a Hearing

The formal term for cancelling a Hearing.

Without Prejudice

This phrase is used within correspondence or negotiations between parties and means that anything discussed cannot be disclosed within court proceedings.