Image courtesy of artur84/

Image courtesy of artur84/

Words and Phrases you May Hear in Divorce Proceedings

Abandonment When a spouse leaves the marital home.

Absent parent This term was used in the Child Support Act 1991 to refer to the parent not living in the same household as the child. The term non-resident parent is now usually used.

Access Now referred to as ‘contact’.

Acknowledgement of Service The document that the respondent receives with the divorce petition. This must be signed and returned to confirm that the petition has been received.

Adultery Sexual intercourse by a married person with a member of the opposite sex.

Affidavit A written statement to be used in court, the truth of which has been sworn or affirmed by the person making it.

Ancillary Relief The financial arrangements of a divorce made by a court.

Annulment Invalidity of a marriage particularly where a declaration has been made that some defect such as bigamy has been involved. Any children of such a marriage remain legitimate however.

Answer The formal defence to a divorce petition. Strict time rules apply here.

Assets Any description of property or rights other than land or interest in land.

Attachment of earnings order A court order obtained by a creditor to make a debtor’s employer deduct and hand over to the creditor a proportion of the debtor’s earnings to pay off the debt.

Barrister Also known as counsel. A lawyer instructed by your divorce solicitor to give an opinion or to represent a solicitor’s client in court.

CAFCASS The Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Services for England and Wales.

Care and Attention If your case becomes more complex or has to be dealt with urgently this term is used to describe the extra legal charge imposed by your solicitor.

Chambers This is the name for the offices of barristers.

Charge This is similar to a mortgage on a property. When the property is sold the person entitled to the charge e.g. the other spouse or public funding authority is repaid the amount of the charge from the proceeds of the sale.

Child Support Maintenance paid by the non resident parent.

Child Support Agency (CSA) The organisation set up to assess what maintenance non resident parents should pay. It has not been a success and is now likely to be abolished or re-organised in another form.

Clean Break A one-off order that deals with all the finances between a husband and wife. There can be no subsequent claim for any maintenance even if circumstances change. There can be no clean-break regarding children – this applies to spouses only.

Conciliation Another word for mediation.

Consent Order A court order which sets out what has already been agreed between two parties.

Contact Formerly known as ‘access’. The time a non resident parent spends with his/her child as agreed between the parents and possibly the court.

Court Welfare Officer The previous title for the person used by the court to prepare a report about the best interests of a child when there is a dispute during a divorce. The new term is a CAFCASS Reporter.

Co-respondent The person with whom the respondent has committed adultery. It is no longer legally required for this person to be named and this can sometimes cause less acrimony.

Cross Decrees When both husband and wife are granted divorce decrees.

Cross Petition When the Respondent claims that he/she is entitled to a divorce. A cross petition is now a rarity partly because it is so expensive to fight a court battle and also because it makes no difference to financial/property provision on decree.

Custody A custody order gave one parent, or both, the right to have the child living with him or her on a day-to-day basis. It is now referred to as a Residence Order and is only made by the court if the parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves.

Decree Absolute
The final court order which ends a marriage.

Decree Nisi
A provisional order showing that the court is satisfied that grounds for divorce have been established

Duxbury calculation A tool used in a clean break situation – a formula to calculate the lump sum necessary based on the amount of maintenance payable and life expectancy.

Equity Refers to the net value of a property after mortgages or other charges are paid.

Exhibit A document shown in court which is usually sworn with an affidavit.

Ex parte Usually an urgent application made to the court without prior notification to the other side.

Family Proceedings Court A division of the Magistrates Court where family law matters are dealt with.

Filing When documents are left with the court for sealing and service.

Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment Under the new financial procedures, this is the second court appointment when the judge considers all offers made including those on a without prejudice basis.

First Appointment The first court meeting when the judge considers what other information is needed to determine financial matters.

Get A Jewish religious divorce.

Grounds The legal basis or reason for getting divorced.

Guardian The person given parental responsibility for a child.

Guardian ad Litem Someone appointed to act for a child in a court case.

Hearing A proceeding before the court that attempts to resolve an issue through testimony, legal arguments, and the introduction of evidence.

In Chambers This term is when the district judge or judge considers an application in private. This is less formal than open court.

Injunction A court order telling someone what to do or forbidding someone from doing something e.g. where there has been domestic violence.

Interim Hearings Hearings for a judge to hear applications for interim court orders e.g. for personal protection, child contact, or spousal maintenance. Decisions are for the short term

Judicial Separation A decree which means that the parties will be living separately but which does not end the marriage.

Jurisdiction The authority of a court to rule on a particular legal matter. Different types of court have different jurisdictions.

Legal Aid Now referred to as Public Funding. Government assistance with legal costs. Any money expended by the government will have to be repaid by the person receiving the public funding if he/she recovers any assets as a result of the divorce.

Legal Separation A legal agreement or court judgement formally authorising a couple to live apart and setting out the terms for their living apart although the couple is still married to one another.

MacKenzie Friend this is a lay helper who can go with you into court, with the court’s permission. However, he/she does not have the right to address the court directly or examine a witness.

Maintenance The regular payment of money by one spouse to another for their financial support. Maintenance may be provided for only a limited period of time or can last until the payee spouse dies or remarries. Also known as Spousal or Periodical Payments.

Maintenance Application Form and Maintenance Enquiry Form These are standard forms sent out to both parents by the CSA (Child Support Agency).

Matrimonial Home Any property in which a married couple live together whether they own or rent it.

Matrimonial Home Rights These are the rights of occupation of both spouses to live in the family home until the decree absolute. If there is domestic abuse or violence you should seek immediate advice from your solicitor or the police as the courts have powers to alter this arrangement in some cases.

Mediation Attending sessions with a professionally qualified mediator who can help a husband and wife reach their own solutions in matters concerning children or divorce finances without going to court.

Minutes of Order This is when draft terms of agreement go before the court with a request that a Consent Order be made in the same terms.

Nominal Order This is an order for maintenance when it is not needed or cannot be paid under present circumstances.

Non-Molestation An injunction order forbidding someone from assaulting, pestering, threatening or interfering with another person or persons.

Non-resident parent The CSA now uses this term instead of absent parent, meaning the parent living away from the child.

Nullity Decree A decree that the marriage has been declared null and void. Also known as an annulment.

Occupation Order An injunction excluding someone from his/her home.

Order A ruling by the court on an application that requires the parties in a divorce to do something or not do something or that establishes that parties rights and responsibilities.

Parental Responsibility The duties/rights of a parent towards a child. People married at the date of conception of a child automatically have parental responsibility. Unmarried fathers obtain it if their name appears on the birth certificate, by agreement with the mother, or by court order.

Parent With Care A CSA term to denote the parent who has the child at home and provides day to day care.

Penal notice This is a court warning usually contained in a court order, notifying the recipient that a breach of the order will result in committal to prison.

Pending suit This is the term used while the divorce is in process but before the decree absolute.

Periodical payments Another term for maintenance.

Petition This is the document requesting a divorce or a judicial separation.

Petitioner The person who starts the divorce proceedings by filing the petition.

Pleadings Documents or formal statements summarising the issues of the case.

Prayer The part of the divorce petition or answer which asks the court to make orders in favour of the petitioner or respondent.

Prohibited Steps Order This is a court order used to prohibit something being done to a child such as being taken out of the country.

Property Adjustment Order An order that a spouse should transfer a property to the other.

Qualifying child A CSA term meaning a child under 17 or under 19 if in full-time education.

Recovered or Preserved Money or property which has been gained or kept in the course of divorce proceedings.

Relevant Child Child of the family who is not yet sixteen at the date of decree nisi and who is still in full time education or training or who is disabled or dependent.

Reply A document filed by the petitioner in response to an answer.

Request for Directions An application to the court for a decree nisi.

Reserved Costs This is when a decision about costs will be made later during divorce proceedings.

Residence Order Made under the Children Act 1989 to decide where a child is to live. Only necessary where parents fail to agree.

Respondent The spouse who receives the divorce petition or judicial separation.

Sealing by the Court The court stamps a document filed at the court office or stamps an order or decree when issued.

Secured Provision When an asset which provides income is put under the jurisdiction of trustees and used to provide maintenance.

Separation Agreement A document setting out the terms agreed usually before divorce proceedings. A solicitor should be consulted before signing.

Service The process by which court documents are formally sent to one spouse.

Special Procedure When a divorce is undefended, the decree can be issued without either spouse having to appear at court.

Specific Issue Order An order determining a specific issue relating to a child, for example when parents cannot agree about schooling or medical treatment.

Spouse A husband or wife.

Statement of Arrangements The form sent to the court with the petition if there are any children. It sets out proposed arrangements for the children. If possible, this should be agreed between both parents and signed.

Statutory Charge If you are receiving public funding (legal aid), this is the amount to be paid if the funding did not cover all your legal costs. Various rules apply.

Subpoena An order that someone attend a court hearing.

Summons An order that someone attends court at a specified time or date.

Talaq A Muslim divorce.

Tangible Property Property that has value in and of itself such as a house or a car.

Testimony Statements or evidence provided by a witness under oath in court.

Transcript: A typed record of the trial or court hearing.

Trial  A formal court hearing presided over by a judge to resolve the issues. Sometimes referred to as a final or fully contested hearing.

Undefended Divorce Where the respondent does not oppose the divorce being granted.

Without Prejudice Anything said or written without prejudice during negotiations cannot be disclosed to the court if no agreement is reached.

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