Commonly Used Legal Phrases in Family Law

AbuseAny behaviour which causes harm
Adjourn / AdjournmentWhere the case, or a hearing, is directed to take place or continue at a later time (which might be on the same day or another day)
AllegationA claim that someone has done something wrong
ApplicantThe name given to someone who is asking the court for a court order
ApplicationHow a person asks the court to do something
CafcassCafcass stands for the ‘Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’.  Cafcass is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.  Cafcass workers (sometimes called ‘Family Court Advisers’ or ‘officers’) are specialist social workers who help the court by making safeguarding checks, helping parties at the FHDRA to consider solutions, and if necessary writing reports for the court &/or monitoring arrangements after court.
CAFCASS CymruThis is Cafcass in Wales.  CAFCASS Cymru is part of the Department of Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government.
Child Arrangements OrderThis is an order which will set out arrangements relating to (a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and (b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any other person.
Collaborative lawOne of the ways of trying to sort out disputes away from court; each party appoints their own lawyer, and you and your lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face.
Consent orderWhen you have reached an agreement with the other parent, which resolves the dispute, the judge may agree to make that agreement into an order called a consent order.
Contact centre A place for a parent to see their child in a neutral and ‘safe’ environment. ‘Supervised’ contact centres provide a safe and neutral place for contact. ‘Supported’ contact centres, which are often run by volunteers, offer a neutral place for contact in cases where no safety concerns exist
Designated Family JudgeThis is the judge who has responsibility to provide leadership to the family judiciary within the court centre or group of courts
Dispute ResolutionThe method of solving disagreements
Domestic violenceThis phrase is used to describe a wide range of behaviours including any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

DRADispute Resolution Appointment.  This is a court hearing which takes place towards the end of the court’s involvement, and is another opportunity to see if the dispute can be sorted out with the help of a judge.
EnforcementMaking sure that an order is complied with
Expert evidenceEvidence and opinions provided by someone with special skills and knowledge (but, for these purposes, does not refer to a social worker employed by, and giving evidence on behalf of, a local authority who is a party to the case).
Fact finding hearingA court hearing set up for the court to decide on issues of fact or allegations which are in dispute.
Family Assistance orderAn order of the court which allows Cafcass or local authorities to provide social-work support to help parties to establish contact arrangements which might otherwise fail.
FHDRAFirst Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment.  This is a court hearing which takes place at the beginning of the court’s involvement.
FileThis means to send / deliver to the court office
FPRFamily Procedure Rules 2010; the rules of court which govern family cases.
Gatekeeper(s)The nominated District Judge and/or nominated Legal Adviser responsible for deciding which level of judge in the family court should initially deal with an application
HearingThe name given to a meeting or court appointment with a judge
Indirect contact Any contact which is not face-to-face (for example, letters, birthday cards, phone calls).
Interim contact Contact that takes place between the first court hearing and the final hearing
Investigation under section 37Where it appears to a judge that a child is or may be at risk of significant harm and it may be appropriate for local authority children’s services to apply for a court order giving them responsibilities towards a family, the judge can direct the local authority to investigate the child’s circumstances
JudgeWhere the term ‘Judge’ is used, this refers to any judge of the Family Court including lay justices (magistrates)and  judges of the High Court
JudgmentThe decision of the Judge, and the reasons why the decision has been made
LAALegal Aid Agency; this is the body responsible for providing public funding for legal representation.
Litigant in Person or LiPThis is the name given to a person in court proceedings who does not have a lawyer
 BundleA bundle of court documents, contained in a file, which contains the following: Section A: Applications, Section B: Orders, Section C: Statements, Section D: Cafcass safeguarding letter, analyses and any expert reports, andSection E:  Police, medical, other documents
McKenzie FriendA friend or other person who can help you prepare your case and go to court with you to give you support and take notes
MIAMMediation Information and Assessment Meeting.  At this meeting, a trained mediator will explain what mediation is and how it works, explain the benefits of mediation and the likely costs, answer questions, assess whether the person is eligible for legal aid for mediation, assess whether mediation is suitable in the case.  A MIAM should be held within 15 working days of contacting the mediator.
NACCCNational Association of Child Contact Centres: NACCC has in its membership about 350 child contact centres and services throughout England (including the Channel Isles), Wales and Northern Ireland.Child contact centres and services are neutral places where children of separated families can enjoy contact with the parent with whom the child does not live and sometimes with other family members, in a comfortable and safe environment.
Parental responsibilityAll the legal rights and responsibilities normally associated with being a parent
Part-heardMeans a hearing which has started but which has not been finished within the day, and then continues on another day
PartySomeone involved in the court proceedings – either the person who has made the application, or the person(s) against whom the application has been made.
Practice DirectionThis is a document which sets out good practice in supporting the FPR (Family Procedure Rules) or other Rules (see above) and /or may contain provisions which could otherwise be contained in rules of court and have same effect as rules
Private family lawFamily disputes between individuals about arrangements for children.
Respondent(s)This is the name given to the person or people who receive the court application
ReviewTo look at something again
Rule   16.4     children’s guardianA person (usually a specialist social worker) appointed by the court to look after the interests of a child in the case
SafeguardingMaking sure that people are safe
Section 7 reportA welfare report, prepared under section 7 of the Children Act 1989; the report will be on such matters relating to the welfare of that child as are required to be dealt with in the report; the report may be in writing or oral.
ServeDelivery of court documents
SPIPSeparated Parents Information Programme; this is available across England, and is for both parents and for grandparents.
Statement or Witness StatementA document setting out what you want to say to the Judge about the case.  You should sign it and date it.  What you say in the statement must be true.
UndertakingA solemn promise to the court to do, or not do, something
WFPOWelsh Family Proceedings Officer.  A Cafcass officer in Wales.
WT4CThe Working Together For Children programme which runs in Wales – and is the equivalent of the SPIP (see above)

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


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