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Family Law Jargon Buster

See a breakdown below of words and terms used when discussing family law matters.

Legal Separation – it is not actually necessary to formalise your separation. If you are not living together as husband and wife you are legally separated.

Separation Deed/Agreement – A document that sets out the agreement reached between the parties with regard to all aspects of their separation. It is usually used when divorce proceedings are not immediately contemplated.

Judicial Separation – a decree pronounced by the court. Used by parties who do not wish to divorce commonly on religious grounds, but wish to use the court’s powers to make orders relating to property and finance.

Petition – the document that is filed with the court to start divorce proceedings. It sets out the parties details and the grounds relied upon.

Statement of Arrangements – a document filed with the court setting out the arrangements for any children of the family.

Child of the Family – a child of both parties or a child of one of the parties who has lived with the parties during the marriage.

Petitioner – the person who files for divorce.

Respondent – the recipient of the divorce petition

Co Respondent – the third party named in an adultery petition. It is not necessary to name a third party and it very rarely happens.

Acknowledgement of Service form – filed by the respondent to acknowledge receipt of the divorce papers.

Decree Nisi – the first decree of divorce. A petitioner is required to wait for six weeks and one day before applying for the final decree

Decree Absolute – the final decree of divorce, on pronouncement of which the parties are free to remarry.

Adultery – the voluntary act of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, one of who is married to someone else. The adultery does not need to be the cause of the separation.

Unreasonable behaviour – behaviour that is unreasonable and, as such, intolerable to live with.

Desertion – a unilateral decision by one party to separate from the other for a period exceeding two years. This ground is rarely used these days.

Separation – the parties have lived apart for more than two years, provided the other party consents, or five years without consent .

Parent with care – the parent with whom the child lives on a day to day basis

Absent parent – the parent who the child does not live with on a day to day basis

CSA – the Child Support Agency. This is the Government body responsible for assessing a parents maintenance liability and collecting the payments.

Residence – an order granted by the court to confirm that a child lives with a particular parent.

Contact –an order granted by the court that the child is made available for contact with the parent that they do not live with.

Parental responsibility – all the rights and responsibilities that a parent has with regard to their child. A mother will always have parental responsibility as will a married father. An unmarried father will only have parental responsibility if they meet the requisite criteria – that he is named as the father on the birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003.

Contact – the time that a child spends with their Absent Parent. This can be agreed by the parties or defined in as order.

Prohibited Steps Order – an order made by the Court prohibiting one parent from taking a certain course of action such as removing a child from the other parents care of from the UK.

Specific Issue Order – an order made by the court with regard to a specific issue which has arisen between the parents  such as which school a child should attend or whether they should be removed from the jurisdiction whether permanently or temporarily.

CAFCASS – the body appointed by the court to investigate any welfare issues that may arise in proceedings relating to children and to make recommendations to the court on matters such as where a child should live or how much contact they should have with their other parent.

Mediation – a process which allows the parties to meet with a neutral person (a Mediator) to discuss any issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship and to ascertain whether it is possible to agree a solution.  These could be issues relating to the children or financial issues. It is now a requirement  for any individual considering any application to the court, whether it is with regard to children or financial issues, to explore the possibility of resolving the dispute through Mediation.

Financial Order – an order made by the court with regard to the financial aspects of separation.  Such orders could include orders for a transfer or sale of the matrimonial home, a maintenance order, or a pension sharing order.

Maintenance/periodical payments– a regular sum of money provided by one spouse to the other either for their own benefit or for the benefit of a child/children.

Lump sum – a specified sum provided by one spouse to the other to satisfy their interest in matrimonial assets.

Property Adjustment Order – an order that one spouse transfer their interest in matrimonial property to the other usually in consideration of a payment.

Pension Sharing Order – an order that a portion of one spouse’s pension fund is transferred to the other either within the same pension scheme or to a completely separate scheme.

Pension Earmarking Order – an order that part of one spouse’s pension fund is earmarked for the other. There is no transfer of funds in this case and the benefit is obtained at the point of the member’s retirement.

Clean Break order – an order prohibiting either spouse from making any future claims against the other’s property or income or against each other’s estate upon death.

Consent Order – an order made by the court approving the terms agreed between the parties.  Usually granted in the absence of the parties following submission of a draft.

Undertaking – a promise made by the court to do something. Breach of an undertaking is a contempt of court .

Disclosure – a process whereby the parties exchange information and documents relating to their financial circumstances. This could be a voluntary process, prior to negotiations for financial settlement   or by order of the court following the issue of an application for a financial order.

Form A – the form with the court to initiate an application for a financial order.

Form E – a form setting out the financial circumstances of the parties to include details of assets, earnings and liabilities.

First Directions Appointment – the first hearing listed following an application for a financial order. It is unusual for the case to be concluded at this stage and the Judge will make the necessary directions to progress the case.

Financial Dispute Resolution hearing – if matters cannot be resolved at the first hearing the application will be listed for FDR. A judge will encourage the parties to agree a financial settlement by providing an indication of what the court would deem as fair. Without prejudice discussions will then take place between the parties and their legal representatives. If settlement is reached the Judge will make an order.

Final Hearing – if the parties are unable to reach agreement at the FDR the case will be listed for hearing before a different Judge who will consider all the relevant evidence before making an order that will bind the parties.

Pre nuptial Agreement – an agreement made between potential parties to a marriage setting out what will happen in the event of their separation notably with regard to division of assets.

Cohabitation Agreement – an agreement made between a cohabiting couple setting out the terms of their cohabitation and what will happen in the event of their separation.

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