​The action of forcibly taking a person away against their will, or the action of illegally removing a child from its parents or guardian.

Acknowledgement of Service

The Acknowledgement of Service is the document which is sent by the Court to the Respondent at the same time as the divorce application and which the Respondent is requested to return to the Court, thus indicating that the application has been received.


​Adoption is where a child legally becomes a member of a new family and has one or two new parents.

ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)

​ADR is a global terms referring to the methods of resolving disputes other than going to Court, and includes mediation, collaborative practice and arbitration.


Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man or woman and a partner other than the legal spouse. From 6th April 2022 it is no longer necessary to allege adultery or any other fact in support of irretrievable breakdown of relationship.


​A written statement that is sworn under oath.

Affidavit of Service

​An affidavit certifying that documents have been served on a person.


​A solemn declaration made by a person to tell the truth. Lying in an affirmation is perjury, a criminal offence.


​A process by which documents issued in one country have to be authenticated or legalised before they are recognised as valid in another country.


​Family Law Arbitration is another ADR, a newly created scheme where the parties appoint a qualified arbitrator to give a binding decision having heard submissions etc. from both sides (or their lawyers). The procedure is governed by the Family Law Arbitration Rules. Further details are available at


​A 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 experts reports

Section E: Police, medical and other documents 

Cafcass (Children and families courts advisory service)

​Cafcass looks after the interests of children who are involved in family court proceedings. The role of Cafcass officer varies depending upon the type of proceedings before the court.

Care Order

​A Court order placing a child into the care of a local authority. The making of a Care Order gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child in question in tandem with the parents.

CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value)

​One of the valuations given to a pension fund. Roughly, if the fund were transferred to another pension provider at the given date, it is the figure that the new pension provider would receive. It is often the figure given most weight in the courts and by family lawyers in negotiations; but other approaches to valuations may sometimes be more beneficial or appropriate.


​A charge on a property is like an additional mortgage. It gives the holder of the charge security as he/she has to be paid out of the proceeds of the eventual sale of the property unless that person is paid earlier.

Child Arrangements Orders

​The effect of s.12 of the Children and Families Act 2014 is that contact and Residence Orders are no more, as from 22nd April 2014. Instead, there will be a single order, a Child Arrangements Order which deals with 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.

Child Maintenance Service

​The Child Maintenance Service administers the new child support scheme. The Child Support Agency is to be gradually phased out.

Child of the family

​A child who has been established as a member of the family, including adopted children and step-children.

Children’s guardian

​An officer of Cafcass appointed by the Court to represent children in care and supervision proceedings.

Civil Partnership

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 enables same sex couples to register as civil partners of each other. It provides legal rights akin to those of married couples in a wide range of legal matters, but there are significant differences also.

Clean Break

​A one-off order that deals with all of the financial matters between a husband and wife, and ensures that there can be no subsequent claim for any maintenance should circumstances change.

CM Options

​Separated parents are offered free information and support from CM Options, a free service to help separated parents make decisions about the payment of child maintenance.


​Living together (without being married or in a civil partnership)

Collaborative Law

​A type of Alternative Dispute Resolution built on the premise that couples can mutually solve their difficulties by working together between themselves and with their respective solicitors to negotiate an agreement without going to Court. The process involves the parties at the outset entering into an agreement stating that they will not seek to resolve their dispute by going to Court. Whilst not suitable for all, it can be a way of preserving relationships between a separating couple which litigation tends to destroy.

Conditional Order

A conditional order is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why the parties cannot divorce, end their civil partnership, or annul their marriage. This can be applied for 20 weeks after the Application for a divorce has been issued.


​Is very bad or exceptional behaviour which a Court will only take into account if it would be inequitable to disregard it. It is rarely pleaded, and difficult to persuade a Court to consider it.

Consent Order

​A financial order made by the Court, the terms of which having been agreed by the husband and the wife.

Contact (formerly Access)

​The arrangements for a child to see the parent with whom it no longer lives. This can be direct (face to face) or indirect (letters, telephone calls, skype etc.)

As of the 22nd April 2014 there will be no more contact orders made by the court. Instead, these are to be replaced with child arrangements orders which deal with both who the child will see and when, and with when, where and with whom the child should live.

Contested Divorce

Formerly, this applied where one party did not accept that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, or did not accept that the grounds for divorce were correct, and therefore wished to contest this through the Courts. In actual fact, contested divorces were relatively rare.

Any Application for a divorce made after 6th April 2022 cannot be disputed (contested) other than on jurisdictional grounds.

Costs (Order)

​When one party is ordered to pay the others legal fees and expenses. Although relatively rare in family cases, costs are usually ordered as a punitive award against a party who has caused unnecessary costs to be expended, or who has conducted themselves badly by failing to do as directed by the \\court, or by failing to give full disclosure of their assets etc…




​The old term for Residence and which describes where a child lives.

Decree Absolute/Final Order

The Order terminating a marriage.

If the petition was issued before 6th April 2022 then a Decree Absolute is pronounced. 

If the petition is issued after 6th April 2022 then the court make a Final Order.

Decree Nisi (now Conditional Order)

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a Decree nisi is granted when a court is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. Decree nisi does not end the marriage. It is a provisional decree. It means that the court is satisfied that the person who issued the divorce petition has proved the contents of the petition and is entitled to a divorce. The decree nisi is a statement by the court to the effect that if there is no reason why the petitioner will not in due course be entitled to apply for decree absolute and thereby dissolve the marriage.

Under the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2022, which came into effect on 6th April 2022, they are now known as Conditional Orders, and are applied for once a minimum period of 20 weeks has elapsed after the application for a divorce has been issued.

Designated Family Judge

​The judge who is responsible for providing leadership to the family judiciary  within the court centre or group of courts.


​The process of giving information relating to your financial circumstances. You are under an obligation to provide Full and Frank Disclosure of all of your financial circumstances.

This can be either formal or informal. If formal i.e. in Court proceedings it is done by completing Form E. If informal, Form E is still often utilised as it clearly sets out exactly what is required for disclosure to have taken place. There must have been disclosure before most financial agreements can be binding

Disputed Divorce

As of 6th April 2022, it is not possible to dispute (defend) a petition issued after that date except on the very narrow grounds that the Court does not have jurisdiction, or that the marriage is invalid, or on the grounds of fraud or procedural non-compliance. 

District Judge

​A type of judge sitting in the County Court who will usually deal with Divorce matters, including all financial and child related matters arising.


An Court order ending a marriage.


​A person is domiciled in a country which they intend, broadly, to be their long term home. Everyone has originally a domicile of origin, often based on were born. Later, perhaps when moving country, taking a job abroad and putting down real roots in another country, a person acquires a domicile of choice there and so loses the domicile of origin. If a person then leaves that country either their domicile of origin reverts or they adopt the new domicile of choice. Everyone always has a domicile. It carries tax implications so should not be admitted without considering tax consequences.

DRA (Dispute Resolution Appointment)

​Hearing at which the court identifies key issues in case, resolves to narrow the issues, and give final case management directions. 


​The difference between the value of your property and the value of all mortgages, charges etc. against that property. Thus negative equity is where the value of the property is less than the extent of the borrowing against it.

Ex Parte (without Notice hearing)

A hearing which takes place without the other party being present or being aware of it. Usually applies to emergency applications, especially when seeking non molestation injunctions to protect somebody from Domestic Violence.

Family Court

​In April 2014 the Family Court came into being. Previously, 3 levels of court had jurisdiction to deal with cases at first instance, namely the Family Proceedings Court (magistrates), the County Court, and the High Court. All 3 courts have now lost their jurisdiction over family cases, and these have been transferred to the Family Court.

Family Procedure Rules 2010

​Coming into force on 6th April 2011, these rules govern the procedures to be undertaken in the vast majority of family law applications before the court. All persons going before the Family Courts are governed by these rules, and the Courts have made it clear that they should not make exceptions just because a person is unrepresented.

FDA (First Directions Appointment)

​This is the first hearing in financial applications dealing with the division of assets upon divorce. At this hearing the judge will decide how the case needs to progress, and will give directions as to the procedural steps to be taken to move the case on to the FDR. The Court may order that property be valued, that questionnaires be replied to by certain dates etc., and sets out the procedural timetable to take the case to the next stage.

FDR(Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing)

​At an FDR appointment both spouses are expected to attend with their lawyers. The purpose of the appointment is to see whether the parties can be assisted to reach a voluntary agreement. The court expects to see each side make proposals to settle and for the other side to respond and/or make counter proposals. The judge will give indications as to how they see the matter being decided where the case to proceed to a fully contested hearing. The judge will see all offers to settle, including those made on a without prejudice basis The FDR is a unique concept. If no settlement is reached at that hearing, the records of the hearing are destroyed, and the judge cannot have any further involvement in the case. Many, but not all, cases settle at this stage.

FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment)

​A First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is the first court hearing after an application has been made to court in private family law. It is held to assist the court in identifying issues between the parties at an early stage and to see if it is possible for the parties to reach an agreement. A CAFCASS Officer should also be present.


​The act of submitting documentation to the court.

Final Order

Either : An order dissolving a Marriage (formerly Decree Absolute) or Civil Partnership


The Order which a Court makes at the end of any given set of proceedings.

Financial Disclosure

​See disclosure above.

Financial Remedy

​Used to be known as Ancillary Relief, this describes the proceedings utilised to divide matrimonial finances upon divorce.

Form A

​The Form used to start financial proceedings in Divorce.

Form E

​The Form used to provide disclosure of financial circumstances following the issuing of Form A. It is often used in voluntary disclosure as it sets out exactly what is required to give overall disclosure.


​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. 

Global Order

​An order for the payment of maintenance for a former spouse and children, but which does not specifically allocate how much is to go to whom. Thus an order providing for the payment of say£750 per month for the benefit of a former wife and 2 children does not vary once one of the children becomes an adult, whereas were the order specific as to how it was made up, the element payable to that child would cease to be paid once he reached a certain age.


​A person who has been appointed by a judge to take care of a minor child or incompetent adult personally and/or manage that person's affairs.

Guardian ad Litem

​The person appointed (usually from Cafcass) to look after a child’s independent interests in public law proceedings(Care and Supervision Order applications).

Habitual Residence

​the place where the person had established, on a fixed basis, his permanent or habitual centre of interests, with all the relevant facts being taken into account for the purpose of determining such residence…it is a question of fact and a complicated area of law.

Hemain Injunction

​An Injunction granted by the English Courts preventing an individual from pursuing proceedings in another jurisdiction if to do so would be oppressive, or vexatious, and if it is considered that the jurisdiction of the English Courts is the natural jurisdiction in which to persue the matter. It is an order made against an individual. The Court has no power to bind the foreign Court.


​An order preventing a person from doing a particular act.

Irretrievable breakdown of marriage

There is only one ground for divorce, namely that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  

Under the MCA 1973 any petition had to rely on you have to rely on one of 5 facts in support of the statement of irretrievable breakdown, but as of 6th April 2022 when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect, this is no longer a procedural requirement.

Joint Lives Order

​An order for the payment of maintenance which lasts until one of the parties to the order dies.

Joint Residence

​An order where a child resides with both parents on a rota basis. It may be week on, week off, or specified dates etc. It does not have to be on an equal time basis. As from 22nd April 2014 these are no lomger referred to as Residence Orders but as Child Arrangements Orders.

Joint Tenancy/Tenants in Common

​Joint tenancy is a form of ownership by two or more individuals together. It differs from other types of co-ownership in that the surviving joint tenant immediately becomes the owner of the whole property upon the death of the other joint tenant. This is called a right of survivorship.


​The decision of the Judge, and the reasons why the decision was made.

Judicial Separation

A decree or order of judicial separation is a court order similar to divorce, under which the couple remains legally married but their normal marital obligations cease and they no longer have to go on living together.

In judicial separation cases, the court has the same range of powers as in divorce cases to issue orders on dividing the matrimonial property and providing for the custody, support and maintenance of children. A judicial separation also negates any provision for the spouse in a will, unless a new will is made which reinstates them as a beneficiary. However, unlike a divorced spouse, one who is judicially separated may still be eligible for benefits under a pension scheme on the death of their partner

Legal Ombudsman

​The role of the Legal Ombudsman started on 6th October 2010, is to resolve legal complaints in a fair and independent manner.

The Ombudsmans website contains all the information that you need to know about how to contact them, and what they do.

Legal Separation

See “Judicial Separation”.

Legal Services Order

​An order under s.22ZA or s.22ZB of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that one party pays to the other a sum to enable them to obtain legal services during the court proceedings.

Lump Sum Order

​An order providing for the payment of a capital sum. Usually there can only be one lump sum order, although the Court can in certain circumstances order that it is payable by instalment.


​Money paid by one person to another by way of a regular financial support. Maintenance payments can be for the benefit of children, or to a former spouse, and are usually paid monthly. If paid to a spouse they are referred to as “periodical Payments, or P.P.’s.

Maintenance Pending Suit

Otherwise known as interim periodical payments or “mps” – It is an order for maintenance to provide for short term income needs before the final financial settlement has been determined.  It is made after the issuing of a Divorce Petition/Application, and can include provision for payment of legal costs by the other party on an on-going basis.

Matrimonial Home

​The property which the husband and wife ordinarily lived in.

McKenzie Friend

​A friend or other person who can help you prepare your case and go to court with you to give you support and take notes. There are now fee charging McKenzie friends, but they are not regulated or insured, and do not have any right of audience before the court, so cannot speak on your behalf in court. There are judicial guides and directions which set out what a McKenzie friend can and cannot do. For instance, they are not allowed to speak for you in Court.


​Mediation is an informal dispute settlement process run by a trained third party, called a mediator. Mediation is intended to bring two parties together to attempt to negotiate their dispute, find out each others concerns, and reach a resolution. The process is voluntary, and although not binding, any agreement reached can be made binding by subsequent Court Order or written agreement.


Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

It is compulsory, before the issuing of certain applications before the court, that the Applicant has attended a MIAM. These can be attended remotely (i.e. over video link)


​The same as a pre nuptial agreement, only it is for people who do not marry or enter into a civil partnership....hence the No Nuptials. It deals with how finances etc. will be dealt with should the relationship breakdown, and as a pre nup, requires that certain criteria are met if it is to be enforceable.

Non molestation order

​An injunction preventing a person from assaulting, molesting, or harassing you , either by themselves or through encouraging others to do so.

Nullity of Marriage Order (formerly a "Nullity Decree")

A Nullity of Marriage Order is available in circumstances where a marriage is void or voidable. Unlike divorce, it is not necessary to have been married for one year to obtain a decree of nullity.

A void marriage means that the marriage never existed despite the marriage ceremony. 

Occupation Order

​An occupation orderregulates who can live in the family home, and can also restrict someone from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of violence, but want to return and exclude your abuser, you may want to apply for an occupation order.

Order for sale

​An order that a property be sold, with subsequent division of the net sale proceeds of sale as set out in the order.

Parental Responsibility

​See our separate page about parental responsibility.

Pension Attachment Order

​An order which provides for part or all of the monthly income received from a pension to be paid to a former spouse.

Pension Sharing Order

​In simple terms, an order splitting pension rights between man and wife on divorce. See our page on pensions for more information.

Periodical Payments Order

​An order for the payment of a regular sum of money (usually monthly) to a former spouse by way of providing them with financial support.


The document used to start divorce proceedings, and which sets out certain facts about the marriage and states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The terminology changed when the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect on 6th April 2022, and which substantially changed process and procedure of divorce, dissolution of Civil Partnership, and Judicial Separation.


The person issuing the divorce petition.

If proceedings started after 6th April 2022 then "Applicant" is the correct terminology. If before, it is "Petitioner".

Prenuptial Agreement

​An agreement entered into between a man and woman prior to their getting married to each other which sets out what will happen financially in the event of the marriage breaking down.

Private Family Law

​Family disputes between individuals about arrangements for children.

Prohibited Steps Order

​An order preventing someone from taking certain steps in relation to a child, such as an order preventing a child being known by a certain name, or being raised in a certain faith.

Property adjustment order

​The Court has power to transfer ownership of a property, so that it can transfer a property outright into the ownership of one party, or vary the percentage shares of ownership, or order that a property be sold with the sale proceeds being divided in ratios other than the ratio in which the property is held.


​In financial proceedings, after the exchange of Forms E, each party may raise a questionnaire of the other seeking clarification of issuing arising from that disclosure.

Residence Order (Child Arrangements Order)

​An order specifying where a child is to live, and with whom.

As from 22nd April, Residence Orders are being replaced with Child Arrangements Orders


​Formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA). Membership of Resolution commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way. Resolution believes that family law disputes should be dealt with in a constructive way designed to preserve people's dignity and to encourage agreements. Resolution members subscribe to a code of conduct.


​The person against whom a divorce petition is issued.

Section 8 Order

​s.8 Children Act 1989 deals with the making of orders for Residence, Contact, Specific Issues and Prohibited Steps. These are referred to as “section 8 orders”. As from 22nd April 2014 there will be no Residence or Contact Orders. These are to be replaced with the making of Child arrangements orders but have the same effect, i.e. dealing with where a child should live and when they should see others etc.

Separation Agreement

​A document, usually written in contemplation of divorce at a future date, and which sets out the financial and other arrangements agreed upon during a separation, and which governs the terms of the separation until replaced by Court order in Divorce proceedings. It is usually found in cases where a divorce is based on 2 or 5 years separation, and the parties wish to sort out financial arrangements before being able to issue divorce proceedings.


​The process of formally delivering a Court document to those who must be aware of it. Service usually takes place by posting or sending in the “DX”, but certain documents MUST be served personally i.e. Handed to the person upon whom they are being served.

Special Guardianship

​Special Guardianship is an order made by the court that places a child or a young person to live with someone permanently and gives legal status for non-parents who are or wish to care for that child or young person in a long term secure placement. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced Special Guardianship and Special Guardianship Orders.