Glossary | Specialist Family Law Solicitors


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Glossary of Family Law Terms



Acknowledgement of Service Form

This is the form that a respondent to a divorce or dissolution petition issued prior to April 2022 will need to complete and send to the Court.


A lawyer who speaks on your behalf in court. The lawyer’s act of speaking on your behalf in court is referred to as advocacy.

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.


A means of legally becoming a parent to a child that is not biologically your own.

Adoption Order

A court order which makes the child legally a part of the adoptive family. This ends the child’s birth parents’ legal responsibilities for the child. This is a permanent order.


Voluntary sexual intercourse of a penetrative nature between a married person and a person of the opposite sex who is not their spouse.


A written statement that is made by either swearing on the bible or attesting the truth of the document at the point of signing before an authorised person.


A formal declaration or oath that the statement is true to the best of that person’s knowledge and belief.


A legal procedure declaring a marriage null and void. The marriage will be considered as invalid from the beginning, essentially it is as if the marriage has not taken place.


A re-hearing by another judge.


The person applying to the Court for an order.

Ancillary Relief

A historic term referring to an application for financial remedy as a result of a divorce.


A process that can be used to settle a dispute using an impartial third party.


The impartial third party within the arbitration process that makes the final decision.


Anything of value that you own or have an interest in.



A lawyer who is specialises in representing people in court. They can also provide specialist advice and guidance on complicated matters.

Beneficial Interest

An interest a person has over something even though it may not be legally registered in their name.


A summary of facts and instructions provided to a barrister so they can prepare for a court hearing.


A folder containing the documents that the parties to court proceedings are seeking to be taken into account by the judge at a court hearing.



The acronym for the Child Arrangements Programme. The CAP applies where a dispute arises between separated parents and/or families about arrangements concerning children.


The Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

CAFCASS officer

An independent professional who helps the Court decide the arrangements for children if parents are unable to reach an agreement between themselves.

Case Law

Also referred to as common law. It is law or legal guidelines that have been created by judges through their previous judgments.

Care Order

A Court order placing the child in care of local authority.


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).


A Judge’s office within a court building and also a term to describe a barrister’s office.


A minor under 18 years of age.

Child Abduction

Unauthorised removal of a child from the care of their parents or carer.

Child Arrangement Orders

An order 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 (formally access and custody).

Child maintenance service

The government agency which currently runs the Child Maintenance system in Britain.

Child Maintenance

The amount of maintenance a parent must pay towards the upbringing of their child.

Civil Partnership

A legally recognised union between same sex partners.

Clean Break

A court order which extinguishes any future financial claims by one spouse against the other following a divorce.


Where two people live as a couple but are not married or in a civil partnership.

Cohabitation Agreement

A formal agreement defining rights and obligations between a couple, who are not married or in a civil partnership, and have chosen to live together.

Conditional Order (within divorce/dissolution proceedings)

A provisional court order that is granted when the court are satisfied the marriage/civil partnership has irrevocably broken down (pre April 2022 this order was known as a decree nisi in divorce proceedings).

Collaborative process

A process that enables couples to work together, with the support of their lawyers and other professionals (for instance Family Consultants and Financial Neutrals) to sort out the issues that can arise as a result of a relationship breaking down.

Consent Order

A court order, the terms of which the parties have agreed to.

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).

Contempt of court

The offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful towards a court of law. The sanctions can include fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.


Evidence, either written or oral, which supports what you say.


A barrister.

Court Fees

Fees payable to court in order to make an application.

Cross examination

Questioning of a witness by a person from the opposing party.


Decree Absolute

The final court order that terminates the marriage in cases where the divorce proceedings were started before April 2022 (the order is now known as a Final Order).

Decree Nisi

A provisional court order that is granted when the court are satisfied the marriage has irrevocably broken down in cases where the divorce proceedings were started before April 2022 (the order is now known as a Conditional Order).

Declaration of Trust

A document that sets out who has a beneficial interest in property, the value of that interest and any terms and conditions attaching to the interest.

Deed of Separation

A formal document which sets out an agreement reached in respect of financial matters following a relationship coming to an end.


Where one spouse has left the other without agreement or good reason, to end the relationship, for more than two years within the past two and a half years.


Instructions given by a judge as what the next steps should be or what the parties should do.


The process of a party providing complete and up to date information about his or her financial position.


The legal process which ends a civil partnership.


The legal process which ends a marriage.

Divorce / Dissolution Petition

The application form to start the divorce or dissolution process in cases where the divorce proceedings were started before April 2022 (a petition is now known as an application).

Duxbury Calculation

A method used to calculate a lump sum that can be provided by one party to the other in one go instead of paying spousal maintenance over a longer period of time.



A template form that is completed before each court hearing within financial remedy proceedings that summarises the case to the Judge.


A template financial schedule that is completed before each court hearing within financial remedy proceedings that summarises the financial situation of the parties to the Judge.

Enforcement Order

An order by the court making a party or person comply with a court order.

Ex Parte Hearing

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

Expert Witness

An independent professional who is instructed to give evidence to the court on the particular subject in which they are qualified.


Family Consultant

A professional, usually with a therapeutic background, that assists couples deal with the emotional impact of a separation.

“>Final Order (in divorce/dissolution proceedings)

The order that ends a marriage/civil partnership (pre April 2022 this was known as the decree absolute).


The acronym for a Dispute Resolution Appointment. This is a court hearing within cases involving children. A DRA will take place after a FHDRA and Fact Finding Hearing. At the hearing the court will identify the key issues to be determined and whether these can be resolved or narrowed. The court will consider whether the DRA can be used as a final hearing. The court will consider what evidence should be heard to resolve the outstanding issues at the final hearing. In the event that the case cannot be concluded, final case management directions will be made and the matter listed for a final hearing.


The acronym for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. This is the first court hearing in relation to cases involving children. A CAFCASS officer will be present. The FHDRA provides an opportunity for the parties to be helped to understand the issues that divide them and to reach agreement. If agreement is reached the court will be able to make an order, in many cases the final order reflecting that agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, remaining issues will be identified and the CAFCASS officer will advise the court of any recommended means of resolving the issues and directions will be given.

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.

Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing

Also referred to as a FDR Hearing. The judge will look at the bundle and any settlement offers and give an indication of an appropriate settlement to try and help the parties reach an agreement between themselves to finalise matters. The judge cannot impose a decision on the parties. If an agreement cannot be reached the matter will return to court on another date, before a different judge, for a final hearing.


Lodging documents with the court.

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 (within dissolution proceedings)

This legally ends the civil partnership.

Financial Neutral

A financial adviser/coach who acts as an independent expert within the collaborative process to assist in resolving financial issues.

Financial Remedy Application

An application to start financial remedy proceedings.

Financial Remedy Proceedings

Court proceedings that deal with settling the division of assets and financial arrangements following the breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership.

Financial Settlement

The terms of agreement in relation to the finances between spouses following the breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership.

Fact Finding Hearing

A court hearing when the court decides whether or not certain facts are proven based on the balance of probabilities.

Form A

The application form to start financial remedy proceedings.

Form E

The standard form used to provide the financial disclosure required to work out financial arrangements following the breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership.

Form G

The form used before a FDA to inform the court whether it is possible to use the FDA as an FDR hearing instead.

Form H/H1

These forms are filed before court hearings within financial remedy proceedings to set out the parties‘ legal costs and whether anything has been paid towards them.

Former Matrimonial Home

The home where the spouses resided before separation.

Freezing Injunction

An interim court order preventing a party from disposing of a particular asset pending a final decision being made by the court about distribution of assets within financial remedy proceedings.


Gillick competent

A term used to refer to a child being of sufficient age, understanding and maturity to give the court their own views, and to act independently of any adult.

Guardian ad Litem

An experienced professional appointed by the court, who usually has a legal representative, and provides a court with the views of a child.



A court order forbidding or requiring a specified person to do something.

Interim Order

A court order made during proceedings. It is not a final order.


The process of starting legal proceedings or making an application at court.


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 decision made by the judge within court proceedings.

Judicial Separation

A legal process whereby spouses remain married but separated.


Legal Aid

State funded assistance towards legal fees.


The booking / scheduling of a court hearing into the court diary.


The process of taking legal action through the court.

Litigant in person

A person who acts for themselves within court proceedings without legal representation.

Litigation friend

A person who is formally appointed by the court to conduct court proceedings on behalf of someone who is unable to do so.

Lump Sum Order

An order that one party pays the other a fixed amount of capital.



Financial support paid on an ongoing, usually monthly, basis.

Maintenance pending suit

Maintenance payments that are made whilst proceedings are ongoing and a final decision is pending.

McKenzie friend

A person who assists someone who is not legally represented in court. This can be through taking notes, assisting with documents and making suggestions as to how to act.


A form of dispute resolution, using an independent third party called a mediator.


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.

Non-molestation order

A court order that prevents one party from harassing, threatening or using violence towards another party or person.



To take the oath means to swear to the truth of what is written by you, or said by you, on either the bible or other religious book of your faith.

Occupation Order

A court order defining who can live in a property and the terms of occupation.


Parental Responsibility

This is defined in the law as all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities which a parent of a child has. A person who has parental responsibility for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing.

Parental Order

A court order which makes the intended parents of a child born to a surrogate the legal parents of the child and permanently extinguishes the parenthood of the surrogate and her spouse.


The details of a claim or application.


People involved in court proceedings i.e. the applicant and the respondent.

Pension Sharing Order

A court order that can be made within financial remedy proceedings that provides for a pension fund to be shared between spouses.

Pension Attachment Order

A court order that can be made within financial remedy proceedings that enables a portion of a spouse’s pension to be earmarked to go to the other spouse, usually on retirement.


The person who has applied for a divorce or dissolution before April 2022 (the person who applies for a divorce/dissolution is now known as the applicant).

Periodical payments

The formal term for maintenance.

Post Nuptial Agreement

A formal written document entered into by a couple after they married that sets out how the finances should be dealt with in the event the marriage breaks down.

Post-registration Agreement

A formal written document entered into by a couple after they have entered into a civil partnership that sets out how the finances should be dealt with in the event the civil partnership breaks down.

Pre-registration Agreement

A formal written document entered into by a couple before they enter into a civil partnership that sets out how the finances should be dealt with in the event the civil partnership breaks down.

Prenuptial Agreement

A formal written agreement entered into by a couple before they get married that sets out how the finances should be dealt with in the event the marriage breaks down.

Prohibited Steps Order

A court order that prohibits certain actions being taken in relation to a child e.g. taking a child abroad.

Property Adjustment Order

A court order which provides for the ownership of a property to be changed.



The person who has a court application made against them.

Response to divorce/dissolution application form

If one spouse/civil partner has made the application for a divorce/dissolution on their own rather than jointly with the other spouse/civil partner, the other spouse/civil partner will have to complete and return a ‘response to divorce application’ form. This document confirms that the application has been received. This document will generally provide the proof needed to advance the divorce/dissolution.



A stamp from the court approving and endorsing an order or application.

Section 25 Factors

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.


Providing a party to court proceedings with documentation.

Specific Issue Order

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

Special Guardianship Order

An order appointing one or more individuals to be a child’s ‘special guardian’, it is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement elsewhere. The order recognises the special guardians as being the main carers for the child and grants them an enhanced form of parental responsibility which enables them to make most of the decisions relating to the child’s upbringing without consent of anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child.


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.

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.


The woman who gets pregnant, carries and has a child with the intention that the child is to be parented by someone else.

Supervision order

A court order that provides for a child to be supervised by the local authority.


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.


This is the acronym used to refer to a piece of legislation called the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act.


A hearing in court where parties and witnesses give evidence, are cross examined, and the judge then makes a decision on the issues that are in dispute between the parties.



A legally binding promise to the court, breach of which is enforceable by way of a fine or ultimately a committal to prison.

Unreasonable behaviour
One of the ways in which you could prove to the court that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down before April 2022.


Vacation of a hearing

The term used to refer to a court hearing being cancelled.


Without prejudice

If discussions or correspondence are referred to or marked as without prejudice then generally speaking they cannot be disclosed within court proceedings.

Witness summons

An order given by the court requiring a person to give evidence on a matter.



An agreement in relation to financial matters reached during the course of negotiations which cannot be reneged upon.