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Glossary of Family Law terms

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The final decree in divorce proceedings which leaves you free to remarry


Sexual intercourse of a penetrative nature with another person of the opposite sex whilst married.


A lawyer, either a solicitor or barrister, who speaks on your behalf in court.


A statement of truth either sworn on the Bible, Koran or other religious book, or Affirmed.


The person who makes an application either in relation to children matters, financial matters or injunction proceedings.


These are anything of value that you own eg property.



A lawyer who has proven skills in advocacy, who may represent you in court if there is a dispute about money or children. The barrister will also provide you with specialist advice in relation to legal aspects of your case.


The most common ground for divorce or civil partnership dissolution is to allege that your partner has behaved in a way which you find unreasonable.



A Court Welfare Officer who may be appointed by the Court to help the Judge carry out enquiries if there are Children proceedings.


An office within the court building, but also used as a term to describe a barrister’s office.

Child Arrangement Orders

For orders introduced by the Child Arrangements programme 2014 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.

Child Support

The Child Support Agency/CMAC ie government bodies currently responsible for the collection and payment of child maintenance.

Civil Partnership

A legal union between same sex partners

Clean Break

An order made during/following divorce proceedings bringing financial claims between spouses to an end.

Cohabitation Agreement

A form of legal agreement reached between an unmarried couple who have chosen to live together (whether they are heterosexual or homosexual) defining their rights and obligations.


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


A barrister.

County Court

A civil court which deals with most aspects of finances and children following separation/divorce. The court also deals with other civil claims such as those arising from road traffic accidents and recovery of debts.


Declaration of Trust


A document signed by the persons named on the title deeds of a property in which they acknowledge that the property is held in trust either for themselves and or others beneficially and the manner including shares that the beneficial interest is held.

Deed of Separation

A contract, usually drawn up by a solicitor, which records an agreement reached in respect of financial matters following separation.


A ground for divorce eg. If your husband or wife leaves to work overseas for over two years and never returns.


Disclosure is the the process  in a divorce of a party  providing complete and up to date information about his or her financial position

District Judge

Usually either a senior solicitor, or barrister, who has been evaluated by the Judicial Appointments Commission as not only having sufficient technical expertise, but an ability to deliver fairness with a degree of professional integrity. Most issues relating to a divorce eg. money and children, are decided by a District Judge if there is a dispute.


A legal process which ends your contract of civil partnership.


A legal process which ends your contract of marriage.


Earmarking Order

An earmarking order is  an option for splitting up pension rights on divorce or judicial separation. It means that a proportion of the pension is specified (earmarked) to go to the spouse usually on retirement. It is an option rarely exercised since pension share orders became available in December 2000.  

Form E

A lengthy pre-printed form which you may have to complete if there are financial proceedings.


Family Proceedings Court

The family section of the Magistrates Court where family cases are heard by a bench of Magistrates supported by a Legal Adviser.


A Financial Dispute Resolution hearing relates to finances and takes place where the parties are encouraged by the court to come to an agreement.


Can be sorted out by agreement, or by Order of the Court upon application, but will not automatically be dealt with by the court.

Financial Remedy Proceedings

Financial proceedings relating to property, money and pensions within divorce, civil partnership and dissolution or Judicial separation.

Financial Settlement

The terms of agreement in relation to the finances between a husband and wife usually  following  a divorce

Finding of Fact

A hearing when the court decides whether or not certain facts are proven on the balance of probabilities eg. whether or not domestic violence has occurred.

Freezing Order

A layman’s term for an Injunction Order made pursuant to S37 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. It will stop a party from disposing of money or assets pending a final decision being made by the court about distribution of that money or assets


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 – typically a teenager over the age of 13/14.

Guardian ad Litem

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




An Order of the Court preventing someone from doing something eg. disposing of assets, being violent or threatening.


Judicial Separation

A legal process whereby you remain man and wife, but separated. The advantage of this is that you can apply to the court for orders about financial matters if you cannot agree



Legal Aid

A type of funding which may be available if you are in receipt of benefits, or on a really low income. Legal Aid is now only available for Family Mediation and private Family Law cases where there is serious domestic violence and/or Child protection issues. 


Money that is owned to lenders and suppliers.

Lump Sum Order

An order of the Court that you or your spouse pay a fixed amount of money. The Court can order you or your spouse to pay a lump sum in one go or in instalments. 


Matrimonial assets

Assets acquired through the joint efforts of a married couple  are considered to be matrimonial assets e.g family home and savings built up during the marriage.

Matrimonial home

The term used to describe the house that you lived in whilst married.



Decree Nisi is a certificate which is issued by the court half way through your divorce. One of the parties can then later apply for a decree absolute which will formally end the marriage.

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.


Court proceedings to end your contract of marriage as a void, or voidable marriage eg. failure to consummate marriage.



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 ie. “I swear by Almighty God that this is my name and handwriting and the contents of this statement are true”.

Occupation Order

An Order of the Court granting you the right to occupy a property to the exclusion of your husband or wife.


Pension Attachment Order

Enabling a splitting up of pension rights in a different way to a pension share order and means that a portion of the pension is earmarked to go to the other party usually on retirement. 

Pension Sharing Order

A type of financial order made by the court which shares your pension fund.


The person who issues divorce proceedings.

Post Nuptial Agreement

A contract entered into following marriage to regulate division of money and assets in the event of a later separation or divorce.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement

A contract entered into in contemplation of marriage, usually to regulate division of money and assets in the event of later separation or divorce.

Prohibited Steps

An Order of the Court preventing you from doing something in relation to a child eg. taking a child abroad.

Property Adjustment Orders

Orders governing the transfer and/or seal of property within divorce/associated financial remedy proceedings and/or civil partnership proceedings consequent upon the breakdown of civil partnership.




The person who responds to proceedings issued at court.



If you physically separate from one another. Agreements in relation to finances are often recorded in a deed of separation.

Silver Splitters

The term used to describe couples who divorce or separate aged approximately 55 years and over.


Your husband or your wife

Spousal Maintenance

A regular payment of money paid by one spouse or former spouse to the other following the breakdown of marriage. Payments can be ordered by the Court and such payments can be ordered by the Court and orders can be paid for a definite term or under a joint lives order. The joint lives comes to an end on either the recipients remarriage, the death of either party or further order.

S25 criteria

A reference to s25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which sets out a list of things that a District Judge must consider when making decisions about financial cases.


The Family Court

A Court of Law that deals with cases involving Family Law such as divorce and arrangements for looking after children after divorce.


If you are not married, but have lived together, then you may have a claim against property that you have lived in, even if it is not in your name, if you have contributed financially to that property in some way. This is a TOLATA claim – a claim under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act.


A hearing in court where parties and witnesses give evidence, are cross examined, and the judge or District Judge makes a decision.



A promise to the court to do, or not to do something which is enforceable by way of a fine or ultimately a committal to prison.



Without Prejudice

If correspondence is marked “without prejudice”, then generally speaking, it means that it cannot be produced in court. There are some exceptions to this.



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



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