Legal Glossary 

  • Acknowledgement of Service – The form a respondent receives confirming that a divorce petition has been received. It should be completed and returned to the court.
  • Adultery – Having sexual intercourse with an individual of the opposite sex other than your spouse.
  • Affidavit – A written statement which is sworn to be true by the person signing it. It is sworn before someone authorised by the court.
  • Attachment of Earnings – A court order that deductions be made from a person’s income. The employer pays the money direct to the person owed money by the employee.
  • Beneficial interest – Who has the benefit of a certain asset. Even though an asset may be legally owned by one person, the true beneficial owner may be somebody else.
  • Bigamy – The offence committed by someone who is already married but still goes through a marriage ceremony with someone else.
  • Care Order – An order by a court instructing the local authority to care for a child.
  • Child Maintenance Service – Part of the Department of Social Security. It supervises the assessment and payment of maintenance for children.
  • Child Maintenance – The amount of maintenance the parent not living with their child must pay.
  • Child Arrangements Order – An order setting out where a child will live and how the child’s time will be divided.
  • Civil Partnership – Commonly known as “gay marriage”. Same-sex couples may enter into civil partnerships which bring about the same rights and obligations as marriage. They are terminated in a similar process to divorce.
  • Cohabitation – A couple living together as husband and wife, whether they are a same-sex or opposite-sex couple. At present there is no specific legal definition of what amounts to cohabitation.
  • “Common-law Marriage” – There is no legal concept of common-law marriage something often misunderstood by a couple moving in together.
  • Consent Order – An order setting out the terms that have been agreed between the parties.
  • Contempt of court – The offence of:
    • disobeying a court order
    • abusing a judge during a court case
    • interfering in the administration of justice.
  • Decree absolute – The final court order which ends a marriage.
  • Decree nisi – A provisional court order which orders that a marriage should be dissolved. Usually the only part of the court process in a divorce which takes place in open court and which the public can attend.
  • Divorce – The legal end to a marriage.
  • Divorce petition – An application for the legal ending of a marriage.
  • Domicile – The country which is your permanent home, even if you are living somewhere else for now.
  • Domicile of choice – The country in which you make your home, intending it to be permanent.
  • Domicile of origin – The domicile which a newborn child has. This is usually its father’s domicile or, if the father is dead, its mother’s domicile.
  • Expert witness – An expert in a particular field who is called to give an opinion in a court case.
  • Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing – A hearing which takes place as part of the ancillary relief process. It is commonly known as an “FDR” and is an opportunity for the parties to negotiate a final financial settlement with the input and assistance of a family judge. The parties do not give evidence and the judge cannot impose a decision upon them.
  • Form A – The application to start financial proceedings.
  • Form E – A statement setting out a party’s financial information in ancillary relief proceedings.
  • Injunction – An order of the court preventing a person from taking a specific step. For example, an injunction may prevent a person disposing of an asset or attending at the family home.
  • Jurisdiction is:
    • the territory in which a court can operate
    • the power it has to deal with particular cases
    • the power it has to issue orders
  • Maintenance – Money paid to support a spouse and children when a marriage has ended. Otherwise known as “periodical payments”.
  • Matrimonial home – The house in which a husband and wife live in as a married couple.
  • Mediation – Help from an independent person who assists a separating couple in resolving their legal differences at the end of a relationship.
  • Non-molestation Order – An order dealing with a party’s behaviour. It commonly prevents a person from threatening, intimidating etc another
  • Occupation Order – An order determining who should live in a property. One party will be permitted to live in the property, the other will be excluded.
  • Polygamy – Being married to more than one person at once.
  • Pre-Nuptial Agreement – An agreement entered into by a couple prior to their marriage which is intended to determine financial claims should they divorce. They are not binding upon English law, although the courts will attach a great deal of weight to such agreements if they are properly drawn up and if certain safeguards are met.
  • Post-Nuptial Agreement – The same as a pre-nuptial agreement but is entered into between a couple after the marriage as opposed to beforehand.
  • Prohibited Steps Order – An order prohibiting a certain act.
  • Respondent – The person an action is being taken against.
  • Specific Issue Order – An order permitting a certain activity in respect of children. A specific issue order may address which school a child shall attend or whether they should undergo certain medical treatment or receive certain religious education.
  • Statement of Information – The statement summarising the parties’ respective finances.
  • Undertaking – A promise which can be enforced by law such as a promise made by one of the parties or by their lawyer during legal proceedings.
  • Without prejudice – When written on a document, the document cannot be used as evidence that a contract or agreement exists.