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Fact upon which party may rely to prove in divorce proceedings that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Adultery is defined as sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex.

Acknowledgement of Service

The form which the respondent to a divorce/dissolution petition must send to the court, completed and signed, within 8 days of service of the divorce petition. The respondent must confirm whether or not he or she consents to the proceedings or wishes to defend the petition.


An advocate representing a party at court hearings, and who may be required to provide written advice or advise in conference


Fact upon which party may rely to prove in divorce/dissolution proceedings that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.


The Court and Family Court Advisory Service.

Child Arrangements Order

An order under s8 Children Act 1989 determining with whom a child shall live and when the child will see the non-resident parent

Child Maintenance Service

The organisation dealing with the assessment and enforcement of child maintenance payments from the non-resident parent

Children Act 1989

The statute setting out the law in respect of children matters

Civil Partnership

The same-sex equivalent of marriage

Clean break

A financial arrangement where no monthly maintenance is payable between the parties

Cohabitation Agreement

An agreement setting out the financial arrangements between non-married partners

Collaborative Law

A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution where the parties can attempt to settle financial matters through a series of round table meetings with their respective solicitors

Consent Order

An agreement reached between divorcing parties in respect of financial arrangements, sent to the court for the approval of a District Judge after the pronouncement of Decree Nisi in the divorce

Decree Nisi

Also known as the conditional divorce order, the Decree Nisi is an order which certifies that the petitioner has sufficiently proved the content of the divorce petition and is entitled to a divorce

Decree Absolute

The Decree Absolute certifies that the marriage is dissolved and leaves both parties free to remarry in the future


Fact upon which party may rely to prove in divorce proceedings that the marriage has broken down irretrievably


The process by which the terms of an order of the court can be implemented following breach of those terms by the other party

Fact finding hearing

A ‘mini’ trial of issues where one or both parties have made allegations of domestic violence

Family Law Act 1996

The statute setting out the law in respect of injunctive relief from domestic violence

Family Proceedings Court (FPC)

This is an alternative venue to the County Court where matters are usually heard by a bench of Magistrates and a Legal Advisor instead of a Judge. However, a District Judge can hear matters within the Family Proceedings Court.

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment

Usually the first hearing in Children Act proceedings where the parties see both a mediation professional and a Judge in order to ascertain whether an agreement can be reached without the need of further proceedings

Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing

The second hearing in financial proceedings where a Judge will consider both parties’ positions on a without prejudice basis and give indications and guidance as to a ‘fair’ outcome. It is important to note that around 80% of cases settle at this stage

Final Hearing

This is a trial of the matter concerned whereby a Judge (or Magistrates in the FPC) will consider the documents as well as oral evidence from all concerned before making a determination of the matter by way of a court order.


Remedies that the court can order in respect of remedies finances including property sales and transfers, lump sum payments, pension sharing orders, and periodical payments

First Appointment

The first court hearing following an application for a financial order which is generally used to establish directions as to how the matter can be progressed

Five years’ separation

Fact upon which party may rely to prove in divorce proceedings that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Form A

Form used to apply to the court for a financial order

Form E

Form used by a party to disclose their financial position, either on a voluntary basis or following an application for a financial order on Form A

Freezing orders

An order stopping any release or transferring of a party’s (or parties’) assets

Joint tenants

This is a concept of land ownership in England and Wales whereby up to [four]people can own land jointly. The difference between a joint tenancy and tenancy in common is the doctrine of ‘survivorship’ which automatically transfers a share upon its owner’s death to the survivors thus preventing the leaving of land to any third party.

Judicial Separation

An alternative to divorce – a decree of Judicial Separation can be granted on the basis of any of the five facts used in divorce, but there is no requirement to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The parties remain married but the decree brings formality to the separation so that the parties can pursue their own lives. In relation to a civil partnership, a separation order is available.

Leave to remove

An application to the court by a resident parent to permanently remove a child from the jurisdiction in the absence of consent from other parties with parental responsibility

Legal services order

An order available to parties to a divorce/civil partnership dissolution that allows either party to apply for their legal fees to be paid by the other.

Lump sum order

An order of the court that one party pays the other a specific sum of money at a specific time

Maintenance Pending Suit

An application for MPS is made for maintenance on an interim basis, after the issuing of the divorce petition, but before the court ordinarily deals with the entirety of the financial issues. An application is often made when the applicant cannot get by financially before the matter is concluded

Matrimonial Causes Act 1973

The statute setting out the law in respect of divorce and financial orders


A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that promotes a direct dialogue between the parties. Often, mediation involves the parties without legal representation but with a trained mediator who will assist both parties’ equally in reaching a settlement.

Non-molestation order

A remedy available under the Family Law Act 1996 whereby the respondent is ordered not to harass, intimidate or use violence against the applicant


A declaration that, in effect, cancels a marriage or civil partnership. This is different to a divorce/dissolution that ends a valid union.

Occupation order

A remedy available under the Family Law Act 1996 whereby the respondent is ordered to leave the property he shares with the applicant, stay away from that property, or occupy only certain areas of that property

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is defined by the Children Act 1989 as being all the rights, duties, powers and responsibility which a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his or her property. It includes rights and duties with regard to education, choice of religion, administration of a child’s property and choice of residence

Penal Notice

A sanction provided by the court normally following the non-compliance of a court direction. The penal notice offers a ‘final chance’ to undertake the necessary action or the defaulting party could be found to be in contempt of court.

Pension sharing order

An order of the court that one party’s pension fund should be shared with the other following pronouncement of Decree Absolute

Pension attachment order

An order earmarking a proportion of the income, lump sum or death benefit of a pension without transferring part of the pension to another party.

Periodical payments

An order requiring one party to pay another party a sum of money, usually on a monthly basis, until a further date. Payments such as these can be for the benefit of the receiving party, a child, or both.

Pre-trial review

This is an administrative hearing whereby the court ensures that the case is ready to proceed to a full trial.

Prohibited steps order

An order preventing an issue concerning a child in its best interests (e.g. removal from the jurisdiction etc)

Property adjustment order (order for sale)

An order amending or transferring the ownership of land in divorce and dissolution cases. It is important to note that the court also has the jurisdiction to order that land is sold.


An organisation of family law specialists who have signed a code of conduct placing a greater emphasis on non-confrontational dispute resolution and putting the needs of children first (

Section 25

The main criteria under which the court considers a ‘fair’ settlement of marital property.

Separation Agreement

A written agreement between two parties (whether or not married or in a civil partnership) confirming, in writing, the details of their separation. It is important to note that a separation agreement is only enforceable as a contract between the parties and can be overridden by the family courts in the case of divorces/dissolutions.

Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989

Statutory provisions which allow applications for financial relief for the benefit of their child or children such as lump sums, property adjustment orders, maintenance etc.

Special Guardianship Order

An order granting a person parental responsibility of a child but, unlike adoption, preserving the child’s legal link to their parents. Such orders are common with stepparents and grandparents.

Specific issue order

An order imposing a positive obligation upon a child in its best interests (e.g. school selection, religious upbringing, holidays etc)

Spousal maintenance (term)

An order that one party pays monthly periodical payments to the other until a fixed point in time.

Statement of truth

A statement found at the end of most court documents confirming that the contents are true and accurate. Penalties for breach of a statement of truth range from contempt of court to prosecution under the Fraud Act

Tenancy in common

As opposed to joint tenants, any owner of land under a tenancy in common can leave their share to a third party

Two years’ separation

Fact upon which party may rely to prove in divorce proceedings that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The petitioner must have the consent of the respondent


A formal and written promise to another party or to the court that is enforceable


An application to the court to vary the provisions of an existing court order. Most usually, provisions regarding maintenance are the subject of variation applications

Void marriage

A marriage which can be annulled due to the fact it was illegal or invalid at the time of the ceremony (e.g. one party was already married at the time)

Voidable marriage

A marriage which can be annulled due to the marriage being defective (e.g. non-consummation of the marriage or one party did not validly consent to the marriage)

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