Family Law Jargon Explained

At Wrigley Claydon Solicitors we offer tailored advice using simple, clear, and easy to follow language. However, you may find that the Court and other solicitors use legal terms in Court documents and when writing to you. This section is intended to provide simple definitions for these terms in your family law proceedings.

Acknowledgement of Service

This is the form sent to the Respondent once divorce proceedings are started. The Respondent must complete the form and return it to the Court within 7 days of receiving it. This form confirms to the Court, that the Respondent has received the papers, whether he or she intends to contest the divorce and whether they object to paying the petitioner’s costs.

Arbitration

This is a form of alternative dispute resolution whereby parties can resolve their disputes without involving the Court. In family arbitration, you and your partner appoint an arbitrator, who will make a decision that will be final and binding between the parties, on any financial and property disputes or some child-related issues arising from family relationships.

Cafcass

Cafcass are an independent organisation tasked with looking after the child’s best interests in family law proceedings. Usually, a Cafcass officer is appointed to carry out various safeguarding checks with the parents of the child, schools, local authorities, and the police. Cafcass compile their recommendations and advice in reports and letters, which the Courts are guided by when making their decisions and giving directions.

Child Arrangements Order

An order setting out arrangements relating to 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.

Civil Partnership

A Civil Partnership allows the same property rights and tax benefits as heterosexual married couples. Civil Partnerships are available to both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Once you have registered a civil partnership, it can only be ended if one of you dies, or by applying to court to bring the partnership legally to an end.

Clean Break

This is a financial settlement that dismisses all financial claims (in particular for maintenance) by either spouse against the other, thus achieving a ‘clean break’ between the parties.

Consent Order

A court order made with the agreement of both parties. Usually refers to an order setting out an agreed financial settlement following divorce. the order must still be approved by the court, which is not obliged to approve it merely because the parties agree.

Decree Absolute

The final certificate for divorce dissolving a marriage.

Decree Nisi

The order stating that the Petitioner (or the Respondent, in the case of a divorce proceeding on a cross petition) is entitled to the divorce.

Directions

Instructions of the court, usually setting out how the case will proceed.

Disclosure

The disclosure process involves each party providing various documentation (e.g., bank statements) to provide full and frank information about their respective and joint financial circumstances. Within Court Proceedings, the disclosure process is mandatory. However, if Court Proceedings have not been initiated, disclosure is a voluntary process, although encouraged.

Form E

This is the standard form used in financial remedy proceedings. This is a lengthy form and requires significant financial detail to be filled in by both parties. Various documents are usually attached to the form as evidence. A solicitor can complete a Form E on your behalf if they are provided with all relevant information and paperwork.

FHDRA

First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is the first court hearing after an application has been made to court in private family law. 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.

FDR

A Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearing is the second court appointment when financial proceedings have been issued through the courts.  The parties are encouraged to negotiate, and the Judge will offer guidance and suggestions as to how he or she would deal with the case if it went to a final hearing. It is a without prejudice hearing, which means that parties will not later be held to negotiations that have taken place if a settlement cannot be achieved.  The purpose of this indication is to assist and promote negotiations as much as possible.

Matrimonial Home

The main home in which parties to the marriage reside or resided.

Matrimonial Home

The main home in which parties to the marriage reside or resided.

Mediation

This is an alternative to the court process; mediation is conducted by a third party to help parties reach agreement on issues between them. A mediator will not advise or impose a settlement but rather encourage mutual agreement. It is more cost effective than litigating in Court or months of correspondence between solicitors.

Parental Responsibility

This includes all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility, and authority a parent of a child has by law in relation to a child. This includes things such as deciding where the child goes to school, protecting and maintaining the child, and consenting (or not) to medical treatment for the child.

Pension Sharing Order

An Order made by the Family Court within financial remedy proceedings whereby a portion of one spouse’s pension fund is transferred to the other either within the same pension scheme or to a separate scheme.

Petition

A divorce petition (in Form D8) is the initial court document by which an application is made for spouses to divorce.

Petitioner

This is the person who applies to the Court for a divorce.

Property Adjustment Order

An Order made by the Family Court in financial remedy proceedings that one spouse transfers their interest in matrimonial property to the other usually in consideration of a payment.

Respondent

This is the person who receives an application from the Court, whether this be a divorce application, an application in a case involving children, or in finances.

Undertaking

A promise to the Court to do or not to something. This is legally binding, and therefore breach of an undertaking can be considered contempt of Court.

If you have any further questions or would like to speak to one of our family law experts, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, please click here for more information about our Family Law services.