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Family Law Glossary Terms

  • Affidavit
    A statement (usually in court proceedings) that is sworn to be true by the person making it.
  • Ancillary relief
    The term used until 2010 to describe the court proceedings used to obtain a financial settlement on divorce/civil partnership dissolution. These proceedings are now known simply as “financial proceedings” or “an application for a financial order”.
  • CAFCASS
    CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. A CAFCASS officer is required to carry out safeguarding checks in all court cases involving a child. The court may also order CAFCASS to prepare a report on the child’s wishes and feelings, or other aspects of the case.
  • Child arrangements order
    A court order which sets out how long a child will spend with each parent (or other party to the proceedings, e.g. grandparents). Such orders were previously known as “residence orders” and “contact orders” (and before that “custody orders”).
  • Civil partnership
    Agreement between partners in a same-sex couple, legally equivalent to marriage.
  • Clean break
    A divorce settlement that settles all money and other issues once and for all, so that the former partners do not have any further claims against one another.
  • Co-habitation
    A relationship between two people who choose to live together without marrying or forming a civil partnership. There is no specific legal definition. Whether or not someone is cohabiting is decided based upon their particular living arrangements.
  • Co-respondent
    The person with whom the respondent to divorce proceedings is alleged to have committed adultery. Usually, the co-respondent is not named specifically in divorce proceedings.
  • Consent order
    A court order made following agreement between the parties to the proceedings.
  • Decree Absolute
    This is the legal ending of the divorce. Once this has been granted, your marriage has been dissolved and you are legally single.
  • Decree nisi
    A declaration by the court that the judge is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. This does not, however, bring the marriage to an end. It is necessary for the petitioner to wait at least 6 weeks after the pronouncement of the decree nisi before the final decree of divorce can be requested.
  • Dissolution
    The legal termination of a civil partnership.
  • Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR)
    The second court appointment in financial proceedings at which the parties are encouraged to negotiate and the judge will usually give an indication on the likely outcome of the case should it proceed to a trial.
  • First Appointment (FDA)
    The first court appointment in financial cases when a judge considers what further information is needed to progress the case.
  • Former matrimonial home
    The marital or family home prior to the relationship break-up or separation.
  • Non-molestation order
    An order or “injunction” preventing someone from contacting, threatening, being violent etc towards the other party to the relationship.
  • Occupation order
    A court order preventing someone from living in a particular property, made usually following allegations of domestic abuse.
  • Petition
    The document filed at court which starts divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings.
  • Petitioner
    The petitioner is the person who files the divorce or civil partnership petition.
  • Prohibited steps order
    A court order relating to a child which prohibits someone from taking particular action with regard to the child. For example, an order prohibiting a parent from removing a child from the other parent’s care without permission of the court.
  • Respondent
    The respondent is the person who is responding to the divorce or other family law court proceedings.
  • Specific issue order
    An order about a particular specific issue in a case relating to a child. This might be, for example, an order allowing a child to go on holiday outside of the UK, or an order stating which school a child should attend.
  • Without prejudice
    Discussions, negotiations and offers that are made “off the record,” i.e. they cannot be referred to at a final hearing of the case so that the judge will have no knowledge that such offers have been made and will not be swayed by them.