Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

Family Law and Divorce Glossary of Legal Terms and Phrases

Glossary of legal terms and phrases commonly used in divorce, family law and cases about children. This glossary focusses on private family law terms and phrases. Private law cases are brought by private individuals, generally in connection with divorce or the parents’ separation.

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)
AffidavitA written, sworn, statement of evidence.
Ancillary ReliefAdditional claims arising out of a divorce, judicial separation or nullity petition most commonly for financial provision
ApplicantThe name given to someone who is asking the court for a court order
ApplicationHow a person asks the court to do something
CAFCASSChildren and Family Court Advisory and Support Services.  Government Agency which looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. It works with children and their families, and then advises the courts on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests. CAFCASS only works in the family courts.
Child AbductionThe unauthorised removal of a child from the care of the person with whom he normally lives
Child Arrangements OrderThe “contact order” and “residence order” with which we are familiar is replaced by a “child arrangements order” which will set out “(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 person”.
Circuit JudgeCircuit Judges are appointed to one of the six circuits in England and Wales, and sit in the Crown and County Courts within their particular region. Some Circuit Judges deal specifically with criminal or civil cases, while others are authorised to hear public and/or private law family cases.
Clean breakA permanent financial arrangement for the approval of a judge, by way of a “minutes of consent” document.
Committal to PrisonWhen an order with a penal notice is properly served on a person who is not complying with the order, then disobedience may result in an order for committal to prison.
ConciliationA structured process in which parties to a dispute meet voluntarily with one or more impartial third parties who help them explore the possibilities of reaching agreement without having the power to impose a settlement on them or the responsibility to advise any party individually
Conciliation AppointmentA hearing at which the court and a CAFCASS officer will consider the case and attempt to assist the parties to reach an agreement
Consent OrderWhen you reach a financial agreement with your spouse, you are likely to want this agreement to be converted into a binding court order, so that both parties will be held to its terms in the future.
Contact CentreA 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
Contact OrderAn order requiring the person with whom a child lives, or is to live, to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order
County CourtA court dealing with civil matters which can hear family cases usually by District Judges and/or Circuit Judges
Decree AbsoluteThe final certificate for divorce dissolving a marriage
Decree NisiOrder for divorce unless cause to the contrary is shown within a set period.  This is normally followed by the Decree Absolute.
Dispute Resolution AppointmentA 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.
District JudgeFull-time judges who deal with the majority of cases in the County Court. In the Family Court, District Judges hear most of the cases involving the division of family assets and, along with the Circuit Judges, they also hear the cases involving children.
District Judge (Magistrates’ Court)Legally qualified, full-time salaried Judges who sit alone in court without a legal adviser. District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts) hear the longer and more complex cases which come before the magistrates’ courts.
Family Proceedings CourtA Magistrates’ Court dealing with family cases
Family Procedure RulesThe rules of court which govern family cases.
Final HearingThe hearing at which the court will make the final determination in relation to any applications before it
Financial Dispute Resolution HearingAn FDR is a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing, a meeting held at court for the purposes of negotiation and discussion. It is the second of three court appointments in a financial remedy claim on divorce, in which the couple in dispute must use their best endeavours to reach agreement.
First Directions AppointmentFirst hearing in Ancillary Relief proceedings.  The purpose of this hearing is to define the issues, save costs, make directions in relation to the future conduct of the case, and, where possible, reach a settlement
First Hearing Dispute Resolution AppointmentThis is a court hearing which takes place at the beginning of the court’s involvement.
Form EAs part of the process for applying to court for a financial order, both parties will need to make full financial disclosure about their financial position, and their needs.
Freezing InjunctionAn order which prevents or sets aside the disposition or transfer of any property or asset
Hague ConventionA convention signed by a number of countries to enforce rights of custody and prevent wrongful removal of children
High CourtThe High Court of Justice is one of the three Senior Courts of England & Wales, along with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court.
InjunctionA court order prohibiting a person from doing something or requiring a person to do something.
Judicial SeparationThe court approving formal separation of parties to a marriage but not actually dissolving the marriage.
Lump Sum OrderIn Ancillary Relief proceedings an order that one party to the marriage pay the other party a fixed sum of money in either one payment or by installments
Maintenance Pending SuitIn Ancillary Relief proceedings, a party can apply for interim periodical payments which the court may order before the conclusion of the proceedings
Matrimonial HomeThe principal home in which parties to the marriage reside or resided
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
Mediation Information and Assessment MeetingThe first meeting with a mediator. Also known as a MIAM.
NullityFamily Courts can end a marriage in two ways – by a decree absolute of divorce, which ends a valid marriage, or by a decree of nullity, which finds that the marriage was not valid in the first place (annulment).
Occupation OrderAn order under the Family Law Act 1996 regulating occupation of a home.  It includes the power to either allow a person back into a home or to exclude a person from a home and/or from a defined area in which the home is included
Paediatriciana doctor who has special training in medical care for children
Paramountcy PrincipleUnder Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, when a court determines the upbringing of a child or the administration of a child’s property, the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration
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.
Parental ResponsibilityAll the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.
Pension EarmarkingAn order in divorce or nullity proceedings allowing the court to order the pension scheme of one party to divert a portion of the pension or lump sum to the other party
Pension Sharing OrderIn 2000 the “pension sharing order” was introduced, which provided that ownership of a pension could be transferred from one spouse to the other, by order of the court.
Periodical Payments OrderIn Ancillary Relief proceedings an order that either party to the marriage shall make to the other such periodical payments, for such term, as may be specified in the order.
PetitionA method of commencing proceedings whereby the order required is expressed as a prayer e.g. in a divorce petition a prayer that the marriage be dissolved
Practice DirectionThis is a document which sets out good practice in supporting the Family Procedure Rules or other Rules and /or may contain provisions which could otherwise be contained in rules of court and have same effect as rules
Pre-action protocolStatements of best practice about pre-action conduct which have been approved by the President of the Family Division and which are annexed to a Practice Direction.
Pre Hearing ReviewA directions hearing usually shortly before the final hearing
Prohibited Steps OrderAn order that no step which could be taken by a parent in meeting his or her parental responsibility for a child, and which is of a kind specified in the order, shall be taken by any person without the consent of the court
Property Adjustment OrderIn Ancillary Relief proceedings an order that a party to the marriage shall transfer or settle such property specified in the order to or for the benefit of the other party or child of the family
Residence OrderAn order settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live
Sale of Property OrderIn Ancillary Relief proceedings, where a court makes a secured periodical payments order, lump sum order or property adjustment order, it may make a further order for the sale of such property as may be specified in the order
Section 8 OrderOrder under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, e.g. a residence order, contact order, prohibited steps order or specific issue order
Set AsideCancelling a judgment or order or a step taken by a party in the proceedings.
Specific Issue OrderAn order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child
StayA stay imposes a halt on proceedings, apart from the taking of any steps allowed by the rules or the terms of the stay. Proceedings can be continued if a stay is lifted.
Strike OutStriking out means the court ordering written material to be deleted so that it may no longer be relied upon.
UndertakingA formal and binding promise to the court to do or not to do something
Without prejudiceNegotiations with a view to settlement are usually conducted “without prejudice” which means that the circumstances in which the content of those negotiations may be revealed to the court are very restricted.

This glossary contains public sector information from a variety of public glossary sources licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


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