Family Law Glossary

A

ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution; this is a process of dispute resolution outside of court. It can refer to several different methods of dispute resolution other than litigation including Collaborative law.

Adultery – A reason that can be given as a fact for divorce, this is relevant when your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.

Annulment – A legal procedure that can declare a marriage null and void in certain circumstances.

Arbitration – A type of ADR, this is a process for the resolution of a dispute outside of court. The parties agree to refer their dispute to a specially trained Arbitrator in order to obtain an Award.

Associated person – The relationship between two or more parties in an application for a Non-Molestation Order.

Award – The decision of the Arbitrator during the Arbitration process. It is similar to a judgment in a court of law.

B

Behaviour – A reason that can be relied upon as a fact for divorce, this is relevant when your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue to live with them.

C

CAFCASS – Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. They are responsible for advising the court the of arrangements that are in the child’s best interests.

Change of name deed – A legal document to record a change of name.

Child arrangements order – A court order that sets out where a child lives, and who they spend time with.

Civil partnership dissolution – A legal process that formally ends a civil partnership.

Cohabitation agreement – A formal agreement for unmarried couples who live together their intentions and responsibilities with regards to assets, inheritance and property.

Collaborative law – A type of ADR, in which both parties and their lawyers sit down to discuss and negotiate issues arising from their separation or within their marriage with a view to reaching an agreement.

Common law relationship – When two people are in a relationship and living together but aren’t married or civil partners.

Consent Order – A legally binding court order which sets out the agreement reached between the parties that determines what happens to a couple’s finances after a divorce is finalised. This is submitted to the Court for the Court’s approval.

Court of Protection – A court that makes decisions regarding finances and welfare for those who lack the capacity to do so.

CSA – Child Support Agency; A now defunct government agency that handled the arrangement of child maintenance payments, since replaced by the Child Maintenance Service.

CMS – Child Maintenance Service; A government agency that handles the arrangement of child maintenance payments, this organisation replaced the Child Support Agency.

D

Deputyship – A court-granted role that allows a person to make either financial or medical decisions (or both) for another person who no longer has the mental capacity to do so.

Desertion – A reason that can be given as a fact for divorce, defined as a continuous period of at least two years, in which your spouse has deserted you without your consent.

Divorce – The legal termination or dissolution of a marriage.

Divorce settlement – An agreement reached that determines what happens to a couple’s finances after a divorce is granted, usually contained within a consent order (if agreed) or a court order.

Domestic Abuse – An incident or series of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent behaviour.

F

Financial provision – A term that refers to the division of a couple’s assets after a divorce.

Financial remedy proceedings – The process where, following divorce proceedings being issued, the parties ask the court to determine how to distribute their assets between them.

Five years separation – A reason that can be given as a fact for divorce. To rely upon this fact, you must have been separated from your spouse for at least five years prior to the application.

G

Grounds for divorce – The requirement for a divorce to be granted – that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This is the only legal ground for divorce.

I

Inheritance tax – A tax on the estate of someone who’s died, that doesn’t affect estates under £325,000*, or estates larger than this that are left only to a spouse, civil partner, or charity.

Intestacy – A term that refers to the estate of a person who has died without having left a valid will.

J

Judicial separation – A legal process that formally separates a married couple without terminating the marriage.

L

Lawyer supported mediation – A type of ADR, in which both parties work with lawyers and a specially trained mediator who can help couples come to an amicable agreement.

LPA – Lasting Powers of Attorney; a legal document that grants trusted people to assist in decision making or make decisions on your behalf regarding finances or welfare, in the event of an accident or illness that removes your capacity to do so alone.

M

Mediation – A type of ADR. A process that can be used by families to negotiate future arrangements for children and finances following separation with the assistance of a neutral third party.  

N

Non-Molestation order – A court order which aims to prevent relatives and “associated persons” from using or threatening violence against you or your children (if relevant). This order can also prevent them from seeking to intimidate, harass or pester you in order to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of yourself and your children (if relevant).

O

Occupation order – A court order which sets out who can and who cannot live in a property and/or who can or cannot enter certain parts of a property and the area surrounding the property.

OPG – The Office of the Public Guardian, a government body that oversees the protection and supervision of finances for those who no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions.

P

Parental responsibility – These are the legal rights, duties and responsibilities that a parent has for their child. A person with PR (parental responsibility) has the right and responsibility of making decisions about their child’s care and upbringing, for example what medical treatment they receive and what school they attend.

Prenuptial agreement – A legal agreement made between couples before marriage, that is designed to protect their rights in relation to assets and finances in the event of a divorce. These are not currently legally binding agreements and they cannot oust the jurisdiction of the court, but if executed correctly can carry weight in financial remedy proceedings in the event of a dispute.

Postnuptial agreement – A legal agreement made between couples after marriage, that is designed to protect their rights in relation to assets and finances in the event of a divorce. These are not currently legally binding agreements and they cannot oust the jurisdiction of the court, but if executed correctly can carry weight in financial remedy proceedings, in the event of a dispute.

Probate – The legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died.

Prohibited steps order – A court order which prevents either one or both parents from carrying out certain activities, for example removing the child from the care of the other parent(s) or removing the child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

R

RNRB – Residence Nil Rate Band; an allowance that can reduce the amount of inheritance tax required to be paid.

S

Separation agreement – A document recording the agreement reached between a married couple and unmarried couple following their separation, in relation to assets and children.

These are not legally binding agreements and they cannot oust the jurisdiction of the court, but if executed correctly can carry weight in financial remedy proceedings, in the event of a dispute.

Specific issue order – A court order sought from the family court as part of Children Act proceedings to determine a specific question which has, or may arise, in connection with the exercise of a parent’s or party’s Parental Responsibility for a child.

Statutory will – A will made on behalf of someone who no longer has the mental capacity to make their own.

T

Testator – When a will is being executed, this refers to the person who made the will.

Trust fund – A legal arrangement that allows a third party to look after assets that have been left to someone.

Two years separation – A reason that can be given as a fact for divorce, with this fact you can apply for a divorce if you have been separated from your spouse for at least two years prior to the application. Your husband or wife must consent in writing to this.

U

Undertaking – A legally binding promise to the court to do or not do a specific action or activity.

W

Will and testament – A legal document created by a person, that details how they wish for their assets and finances to be distributed after death.

 

*this may be subject to change