Cutting The Jargon [Update 2022]

Using legal terms is often unavoidable when working on a case. To make the processes involved more understandable for our clients, we have compiled a ‘cutting the jargon’ glossary. If there is anything you are still unsure of, please just ask.

Legal Terms

Using legal terms is often unavoidable when working on a case. To make the processes involved more understandable for our clients, we have compiled a ‘cutting the jargon’ glossary. If there is anything you are still unsure of, please just ask.

A Section 28 (1A)
Bar This refers to spousal maintenance limited for a certain period of time, during which time the recipient is prevented from applying for an extension of that order.

Acknowledgment of Service
A form that confirms the receipt of the Application for divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, which is submitted to the Court.

This refers to the response to an Application for divorce dissolution of civil partnership when the divorce or dissolution is disputed by the recipient.

This refers to the person making the initial application to the Court for an Order.

The form completed to start Court proceedings.

Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

Care Order
An order made in care proceedings placing a child in the care of a Local Authority and giving it parental responsibility which it will share with the child’s parents.

Care Proceedings
Care proceedings are when Children’s Services asks the court to look at your child’s situation. They decide if your child needs a Court order to keep them safe. Your child’s social worker will do this if they think that your child cannot remain safely at home.

Child Arrangements Order
This refers to an order stating with whom a child is to live, spend time, or otherwise have contact; and when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

Child of the Family
The biological child of both parties or a child who has been treated by both as their child.

Child of the Marriage
The biological or adopted child of both parties.

CSA/Child Maintenance Service
A Government organisation that ensure payment of Child Support.

Children’s Guardian
An officer of CAFCASS (see above) appointed by the court to represent children in care proceedings.

Clean Break
The court order which completely ends any financial obligations towards the former spouse.

Collaborative Law
A family law process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals. The aim is to avoid the uncertain outcome of Court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation.

Conciliation Appointment
A meeting between the parents of a child, the Judge and the CAFCASS representative to discuss solutions for the child. All parties must reach an agreement, or the Judge will determine the future arrangements

Consent Order
An order of the Court that sets out an agreement between the parties.

The legal expenses of a case.

An order from the Court that confirms the actions that you must take before the next stage in the hearing.

District Judge
A full time Judge who will normally hear cases regarding private disputes between individuals such as finances following a divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, private children disputes, injunction applications and other civil applications.

Family Court
The court which deals with all family cases. Cases may be heard by Circuit Judges, District Judges or Magistrates.

Final Order (in divorce or dissolution proceedings)
The final Order, confirming the complete dissolution of the marriage or civil partnership, leaving both parties free to remarry or enter into a civil partnership.

Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR)
The second Court hearing in an application for a financial order where the Judge considers the financial offers made to date and suggests the likely outcome of the case as a result of those offers. If an agreement is not reached at that hearing.

Financial Order
The name given to financial orders made within divorce or dissolution proceedings as part of the financial settlement.

First Appointment
The first Court hearing before the FDR, in which the judge determines what financial documents both parties must produce and the time scale in which they have to do so.

Form E
A Form used in financial proceedings to provide full and frank financial disclosure. Often also completed on a voluntary basis to aide in negotiations to try and agree a settlement without the need for contested proceedings.

Freezing Order
A Court Order which prevents a party from moving or disposing of their assets (including assets abroad) until further notice.

High Court
The highest tier of Court that deals with family law cases in the first instance. Hearings take place in front of a very experienced Judge. Appeals are to the Supreme Court.

An Order from the Courts which highlights an action that is required or forbidden from one or both parties.

Interim Order
An Order put in place before a final Order is established.

Interim Maintenance/Maintenance Pending Suit
Interim payments given to a former spouse during the court proceedings, until the final order is determined.

The process of stamping the initial document and paying the fee, when a formal application for an Order is presented at Court, signifying the start of proceedings.

Joint Tenancy
The definition of joint ownership of land or property where both parties maintain an indistinct share. In the event of death of one tenant, the entire property passes to the survivor, overriding any Wills that are in place.

Legal Aid
This provides help with payment of legal costs from the Government in a limited number of family cases usually where a Local Authority is involved in proceedings concerning children. It is usually Means tested except where the Local Authority brings care proceedings when it is free for parents or others with parental responsibility for the child. It is only available in very limited circumstances in other family cases.

Lump Sum Order
An Order in which the Court orders a payment of a lump sum to the other party, within a time frame. Interest is sometimes due on late payments.

Regular payments given to an ex-partner.

Matrimonial Proceedings
An application for a divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, Nullity Order, or judicial separation.

A process in which an independent third party will assist the couple in negotiating an agreement relating to the children or finances.

This is short for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. It is a short meeting conducted by a trained mediator who will assess whether mediation is appropriate in the circumstances. It is a requirement for a person to attend a MIAM before making particular types of applications to the Court.

Non-Resident Parent
The parent who the child does not live with but may spend significant time with.

Parental Responsibility
The rights to make both major and day to day decisions in respect of a child.

Pension Sharing
An order setting out specific percentages for a pension to be divided between two spouses.

Pension Attachment (formerly known as Earmarking)
An order for a percentage of one spouse’s pension benefits to be paid to the other spouse. Rarely used now as Pension Sharing is preferred.

Periodical Payments
Another name for Maintenance payments.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement
An agreement put in place and signed by both parties, in the unforeseen event of a marriage or civil partnership breakdown, highlighting their intended financial consequences should divorce or dissolution occur.

Prohibited Steps Order
A Court Order put in place to prevent any named person from taking a specific action, such as removing a child from the country without getting the court’s permission.

Private Law
The law that deals with private family disputes where the Local Authority is not involved.

Public Law
The law that deals with family disputes concerning children where the local authority is involved.

Public Law Outline [PLO] Meeting
When social workers are concerned about the welfare of a child, they may think about taking the case to court, so that they can ask the court to make orders to protect the child. In most cases, the Public Law Outline requires the Social Services department to arrange a meeting with the parent(s) to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm so that court proceedings can be avoided.

Property Adjustment
A Court Order transferring one party’s financial share of a property to the other.

Resident Parent
The parent with whom the child lives.

The person who receives the Application.

Section 25 Factors
The issues which the Judge takes into consideration when making an order dealing with the matrimonial finances.

Separation Agreement
An agreement detailing specific terms on which the parties agree to separate. The court is not bound by such agreements. However, will take them into consideration when making a final Order.

Specific Issue Order
A Court Order resulting from a problem that has arisen regarding any aspect of parental responsibility, for example, changing the child’s school.

A wife or husband.

Supervision Order
This is an order made by the court in public law children proceedings. It does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility but provides that Social Services should advise, assist and befriend a child. The order lasts for 12 months but can extend on application to the Court for a maximum period of 3 years.

Tenancy in Common
The term for when the parties have separate shares in a property. Unlike joint tenancy, in the event of the death of one tenant, their share will not pass on to the survivor but instead will form part of their estate; it is imperative to have an up-to-date Will.

Term Maintenance
Maintenance payments which are limited for a fixed period.

Threshold Criteria
The test which must be satisfied before the Court that can make a care or supervision order in favour of the local authority. The Local Authority has to prove that: the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that this is because of the care being given or likely to be given by the parent falling below a reasonable standard, or that the child is beyond parental control.

Without Notice Application
A Court application that enables only one party the opportunity to present their case to the court.

Without Prejudice
Certain correspondence, for example, an offer, that you cannot mention in evidence.

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No fault divorce

On 6 April 2022 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force bringing with it a major overhaul of divorce law and procedure in England and Wales. This is the biggest change in divorce law in over 50 years.

The main changes are the end of apportioning blame when divorcing – i.e., ‘no fault’ divorce as it is often referred to; as well as the ability for couples to jointly apply.

Family lawyers, in particular members of Resolution (, have campaigned for these changes for many years; recognising the harm that can be done when couples have to allege blame for the breakdown of the marriage, in an otherwise amicable separation. This is particularly harmful where they are also trying to agree the arrangements for their children.

The Act will change the existing Court process for divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships.

There are changes to the terminology to make it easier for everyone to understand:

  • ‘Petition,’ – the document to start the proceedings – becomes ‘Application’
  • ‘Decree Nisi;’ – the Order that is made part way through the proceedings – becomes ‘Conditional order’
  • ‘Decree Absolute;’ – the final Order to conclude the divorce and end the marriage or civil partnership – becomes ‘Final Order’
  • Petitioner,’ – the person who started the proceedings – becomes ‘Applicant’
  • ‘Respondent,’ – the other person in the proceedings – stays the same.

The procedural changes are that:

  • The application for a divorce can either be made as a joint or sole application, so by one or both parties. It can start off in joint names and move to a sole application if one person is not progressing it
  • The sole ground for divorce/dissolution will remain that the marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down
  • Instead of being based on the present ‘grounds’ of adultery, behaviour, desertion, 2 or 5 years separation, the only requirement is a statement of irretrievable breakdown; no further evidence will be required
  • A defended divorce will be called a ‘disputed divorce’ and will only be allowed in limited circumstances; where there is a procedural or legal point, such as the Court not having the power to deal with the proceedings; fraud or a procedural non-compliance
  • There will a minimum period of 20 weeks between starting the proceedings and applying for the Conditional Order. This is to give couples time to reflect on their decision
  • There must be at least 6 weeks between the Conditional Order and applying for the Final Order. However, it is generally advisable to delay that application until a final financial Order has been made

Some aspects of the current law will stay the same including the rules that proceedings cannot take place within the 1st year of marriage/civil partnership.

The Court’s online divorce portal will be updated to take into account the changes and to also include dissolution of civil partnerships. The changeover dates have been published. The portal will close on 31 March 2022 and reopen with the new procedure on 6 April 2022. All paper applications by litigants in person have to arrive at the Court by 31 March 2022 to proceed under the current law. The only exception to this is for urgent applications received by post or email before 4pm on 5 April 2022.

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