Confused by the jargon? Family law, just like all other areas of law, is full of legal jargon, so here are some plain English definitions for some of the terms that you are likely to come across if you are involved in family court proceedings:
Arbitration – A process whereby the parties agree that their case will be decided by a trained arbitrator. For further details, see this post.
Ancillary Relief – An older term for Financial Remedies – see below.
Cafcass – The ‘Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’ – look after the interests of children involved in family court proceedings.
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. For further details, see this post.
Clean Break – 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. Note that the order must still be approved by the court, which is not obliged to approve it merely because the parties agree.
Co-Respondent – The person named by the Petitioner as having committed adultery with the Respondent. The Co-Respondent is a party to the divorce proceedings.
Cross Petition – A document filed by a Respondent to a divorce who wishes to defend the divorce and petition themselves, alleging that the breakdown of the marriage was due to a different reason to that alleged by the Petitioner.
Decree Absolute – The order finalising the divorce.
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.
Desertion – Separation without consent or good reason, and where the deserting spouse has no intention of returning. Desertion is actually very rare.
Directions – Orders of the court, usually setting out how the case will proceed.
Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment – A hearing within an financial remedies application, at which the parties should use their best endeavours to settle the matter by agreement, with the help of the judge.
Financial Remedies – The financial settlement in connection with divorce proceedings.
Injunction – An order requiring a party to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts. In family law, most commonly refers to orders restraining domestic violence or abuse.
Irretrievable Breakdown (of marriage) – The ground for divorce. Must be shown by proving adultery, unreasonable behaviour (see below), two years’ desertion (see above), two years’ separation with the other party’s consent, or five years’ separation. For further details, see this post.
MIAM – A ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’. A meeting at which it is assessed whether the case is suitable for mediation (see below). In most cases, it is necessary to attend a MIAM before making an application to the court.
Mediation – A process whereby a trained mediator will help couples agree arrangements for children and/or a financial settlement.
Non-Resident Parent (‘NRP’) – The parent with whom the child or children is/are not residing. A term usually used in connection with child support.
Parental Responsibility – For an explanation of what parental responsibility means, see this post, and for details of how it is acquired, see this post.
Parent With Care (‘PWC’) – The parent with whom the child or children is/are living. A term usually used in connection with child support.
Periodical payments – Another term for maintenance.
Pension Sharing Order – An order transferring all or part of one party’s pension to the other party. For further information, see this post.
Pension Attachment Order – An order stating that one party will receive part of the other party’s pension when the other party receives it. Again, for further information, see this post.
Petitioner – The party who issues the divorce proceedings.
Property Adjustment Order – An order adjusting the ownership of matrimonial property, for example increasing a party’s share in the matrimonial home from 50% to 75%.
Respondent – The party who did not issue the proceedings. Note that the Respondent to an application for financial remedies could also be the Petitioner in the divorce proceedings.
Unreasonable Behaviour – Behaviour by one party such that the other party cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This is one of the five ways of proving that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, for the purpose of divorce proceedings. For further details, see this post.
Without Prejudice – Words used in an offer of settlement to ensure that the offer cannot be shown to the court if it is not accepted. If the offer is accepted the protection of ‘without prejudice’ is gone.
Of course, if you are in any doubt as to what a word or phrase means, then you should seek legal advice.
Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.
Image: Confused, by Ben W, licensed under CC BY 2.0.