Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms


An act of sexual intercourse between a married person and someone of the opposite sex who is not the spouse, at any time before a Decree Absolute. 


A legal document sworn on oath.


A defence to a divorce. It is worth knowing that nowadays divorces are rarely defended. 


The person applying to the Court for an order.


A member of the bar: a lawyer entitled to represent clients in all the courts. Also known as ‘counsel’.


Written instructions from a solicitor to a barrister to appear at a hearing on behalf of a client.


The acronym for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services. This is an agency which looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings.


The person you might meet if you apply to the court for an order affecting your child, for example contact or residence. The officer will work with the children and their families and then advise the courts on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests.


The collective grouping of barristers who all work out of the same building.

Child Maintenance

Payments made by one parent to the other to support a child.

 Child Support Agency (CSA)

The old government agency responsible for the assessment, collection and payment of child support payments. 

Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

The new government agency responsible for the assessment, collection and payment of child support payments. 

Child Arrangements Order

A court order that regulates arrangements relating to children. It sets out who the child is to live with and/or who the child will spend time with.

Civil Partnership

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005 and enables same-sex couples to register as civil partners. Once registered as civil partners, it provides same-sex couples with equality of treatment in a wide range of legal matters in the same way as opposite-sex couples who enter into a marriage.

Clean Break

In financial remedy proceedings, a financial order which states that the financial obligations of each party towards the other will be terminated. Most specifically that no maintenance will be paid by one party to the other.


Living together in a relationship when unmarried.

Collaborative Family Law / Collaborative Family Process

A legal process that enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with collaboratively trained lawyers in order to resolve the legal issues that arise from a relationship breakdown. The process avoids the uncertain outcome of court and allows the parties to achieve a settlement that best meets the needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of court proceedings.

Conditional Order

The interim order in proceedings to dissolve a civil partnership confirming that grounds have been established for the civil partnership to be dissolved. 

Consent Order

An order reflecting an agreement reached by the parties and formalised by the court.


This is an old term for when a person is to see their child (see Child Arrangements Order).

Contact Centre

A venue that exists to support, promote and sometimes provide the supervision of visits between a child and a parent.


The person with whom the respondent has committed adultery. It is not necessary to name the co-respondent.


Another name for a barrister.

Decree Absolute

The final court order in divorce proceedings bringing the marriage to an end.

Decree Nisi

The interim court order in divorce proceedings.

Final Hearing

The last (usually the third) court hearing within financial remedy proceedings where the court will make a final determination on all issues. 

Financial Disclosure

The process of providing full and frank financial details about a person’s capital, income, pension and liabilities. Generally, the term means the obligation to provide information relevant to your case to the other party. 

Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR)

The second court hearing within financial remedy proceedings. The purpose of this hearing is to define the issues and for each party to provide the court with a synopsis of their case on a ‘without prejudice’ basis and for the judge to give an indication of the orders that might be made on the facts presented. If no agreement is reached at this hearing a final hearing date will be fixed.

First Directions Appointment (FDA)

The first hearing in an application for a financial remedy. It is generally used to consider the papers filed, whether any further questions can be raised, and whether any experts are needed. It can in certain circumstances be used as an FDR (see above)

First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA)

The first court hearing within Children Act proceedings. 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.

Form E

A sworn financial statement that contains details about each party’s financial position including capital, income and liabilities. Form E can be exchanged voluntarily or as part of financial remedy proceedings.

Former Matrimonial Home

The last family home where the parties lived together as husband and wife or civil partners.

Final Hearing

The third and last court hearing within financial remedy proceedings where the court will make a final determination.


A person appointed to look after the interests of a child, or someone who is not capable of looking after their own affairs.


A court order which restrains a person from a course of action or behaviour or which requires someone to do something. See also non-molestation order and occupation order.

Joint Tenancy 

A form of joint ownership of land in which both parties share the whole title to the property. If one party dies the survivor will automatically own the entire property. 

Judicial Separation

A form of separation that involves a court procedure which is almost identical to divorce. The difference is that the court pronounces a decree of judicial separation rather than a divorce. This means that the parties remain married, but the court can make financial orders (although not pension sharing orders).


The territory in which a court can operate; the power it has to deal with particular cases and to issue orders.

Maintenance Pending Suit

If maintenance is being paid at an unacceptable level (or not at all), interim maintenance can be requested by applying to the court, pending the end of the divorce. The level set will often meet immediate needs and might be lower than the level of maintenance eventually agreed or ordered.


A process for resolving disagreements in which an impartial third party (the mediator) can try and assist those involved to reach their own agreed decisions about some or all of the issues relating to or arising from separation, divorce, children, finance or property.


MIAMs are Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings with a mediator. These are required before a person may apply for a financial remedy order or an order under the Children Act. The mediator provides details of the mediation process and other processes available to resolve issues. If the individuals do not want to engage in mediation, then the mediator will sign a certificate confirming the case is not suitable for mediation.

Non Molestation Order

An order preventing a person from using or threatening violence against the other or from intimidating, harassing or pestering them.

Occupation Order

An order capable of forcing someone to leave a property, usually the former matrimonial home. It can also exclude someone from a part of the home or a geographical area.

Parental Responsibility

The rights and responsibilities that mothers and married fathers have to their children. Non-married fathers can acquire parental responsibility through marriage to the child’s mother, by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother, by being named as father on the child’s birth certificate (after 1 December 2003) or by applying to the court for a parental responsibility order. 

Pension Sharing Order

The division of a pension fund between spouses. Such an order can only be obtained in divorce proceedings or dissolution of a civil partnership.


The party applying for the divorce.

Premarital Agreement

A premarital agreement (also referred to as a prenuptial agreement) is a written agreement entered into by a couple before marriage or civil partnership. The purpose of the agreement is to record the parties’ intentions as to the division of assets in the event that the marriage/civil partnership breaks down.

Post Nuptial Agreement

A written agreement entered into by a couple after their marriage/civil partnership. The purpose of the agreement is to record the parties’ intentions as to the division of assets in the event that the marriage/civil partnership breaks down. 

Prohibited Steps Order

An order preventing a party taking a particular action usually with regard to a child/children.


This is an old term as to where a child will live. (See Child Arrangements Order.)

Residence Order

This is an old term for a court order determining where a child will live and with whom. (See Child Arrangements Order.) 


The recipient of the divorce/civil partnership or children proceedings.

Separation Agreement

An agreement which is entered into by the parties setting out the terms of their separation.

Severing the Tenancy

The process for changing ownership of a property from joint tenancy to tenants in common. The other owner must be given notice. The notice must be filed with the Land Registry.

Specific Issue Order

An order determining a specific issue in relation to a child, for example where a child will go to school.

Statement of Information for a Consent Order

A form that sets out a summary of the party’s finances. This must accompany a consent order when submitted to the court.


A form of property ownership in which the parties own separate shares. If one owner dies, their share will form part of their estate and will not automatically belong to the survivor (unlike joint tenants).


A promise that can be enforced by law, made by a party or their legal representative during legal proceedings. The breach of an undertaking can mean you are in contempt of court and could be sent to prison.

Without Prejudice

This is a term to describe negotiations that take place which cannot be referred to before the court. They attempt to narrow issues, but if no agreement is reached then they are considered confidential and the court is not made aware of them at final hearing, except with your permission.

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