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Divorce can be confusing enough without having to decipher all of the legal jargon involved. To help you get to grips with divorce terminology we’ve put together an A-Z guide that explains things in plain English.

Access – See Child Arrangements Order

Acknowledgement of Service – If your husband or wife has started divorce proceedings against you, you will be sent an Acknowledgement of Service form. This needs to be filled in to say you either agree or disagree with the divorce and returned to the court within 8 days. If you don’t send this form back within 21 days, your husband or wife can continue with the divorce as if you’d agreed to it.

Affidavit – An affidavit is a formal declaration that the contents of a particular statement (for example a divorce petition) are true. It is a written statement which is sworn under oath by the person making it.

Cafcass Officer – Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory Service. A Cafcass officer (also known as a family court advisor) is a specialist social worker whose role is to help you agree arrangements for your child, carry our safeguarding enquiries and, if requested by the judge, to write a detailed report about your child’s needs and wishes. For more information please see our recent blog post.  

CEV – CEV stands for ‘cash equivalent value’, and is the cash value of a pension at a specific moment in time. It is used to value pensions for the purposes of pension sharing.

Child Arrangements Order – A child arrangements order decides where your child lives, when your child spends time with each parent and what other types of contact (such as phone calls) take place. Child arrangements orders replace residence orders and contact orders.

Clean Break – A Financial Clean Break Order is a court-ordered financial settlement that ends all monetary claims between spouses for the duration of their lives.

Collaborative Practice – Collaborative practice is a voluntary dispute resolution process used in divorce to reach a settlement without going to court. During collaborative practice, both parties will voluntarily disclose all relevant information and will negotiate to reach a mutually acceptable settlement.

Consent Order – A consent order makes an agreement legally binding. It is a legal document drafted by a solicitor that confirms an agreement regarding finances or maintenance payments, for example.

Co-respondent – A co-respondent is the outside party with whom a married person commits adultery (when named in the divorce petition).

Child Maintenance Service – The child maintenance service helps parents who cannot agree on a family-based arrangement to work out child maintenance.

Decree Absolute – The decree absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage. You can apply for a decree absolute 6 weeks after a decree nisi has been issued.

Decree Nisi – The decree nisi is a document that says that the court doesn’t see any reason why you can’t divorce.

Disclosure – The process of sharing full details of your financial circumstances with your spouse. District Judge – A full-time judge who deals with the majority of cases in county courts.

Financial Order – You can ask the court to make a financial order if you can’t reach an agreement regarding your financial arrangements. For example, you can apply for a financial order if you want a lump sum payment, ownership of property, regular maintenance payments or a share of your partner’s pension payments.

Grounds for Divorce – The five acceptable reasons for ending your marriage:

  • Adultery (a spouse has had sex with someone of the opposite sex)
  • Unreasonable behaviour (could include violence, abuse, substance abuse) 
  • Desertion (that your spouse has left you for more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years)
  • Living apart (for more than 2 years and spouse agrees) 
  • Living apart (for more than 5 years even if spouse disagrees) 

Equity – The net value of a property after subtracting mortgages and sales fees.

FDA – First Directions Appointment. This occurs after an ancillary relief petition has been filed. It is a procedural hearing to determine how the case will progress, what evidence the court requires, and to set timetables.

FDR – Financial Dispute Resolution. This is the second court appointment in financial proceedings. It takes place when an agreement cannot be reached after an FDA. During this hearing the judge will hear from both parties’ legal representatives and attempt to solve the financial dispute.

FMH – Former Matrimonial Home. This is any property that you have lived in as a couple whether or not you owned it.

Joint Tenancy – The joint holding of property by two or more parties. Each party’s share will pass to the other upon their death. A joint tenancy can be severed during a divorce and converted into a tenancy in common.

Judicial Separation – A judicial (legal) separation allows you to live apart without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. To get a judicial separation, you don’t need to show that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Lump Sum – A lump sum is a one-off payment made by one party to another (either all at once or in installments). For example, if one party continued to live in the former matrimonial home, they may make a ‘lump sum’ payment to the other as a means of compensation. Maintenance – Payments made by one spouse to another either on agreement or by court order.

Matrimonial Home – See FMH

Mediation – Mediation is a flexible process used to sort out problems that arise upon separation, such as financial or child-related issues. During mediation, a mediator will help you identify and resolve your issues.

Parental Responsibility – The legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for their child and their property. If you have parental responsibility for a child you have the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing.

Particulars – Additional details required when a divorce petition cites unreasonable behaviour or adultery.

Pension Sharing – This is the legal splitting of a pension into two separate pension pots. Once split, the two pensions are completely unrelated and are managed independently.

Petition – The document by which you apply to court for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution. Petitioner – The person filing the divorce petition.

Pre Nup – A contract entered into by two people before a marriage that sets out the terms that will apply should they divorce.

Residency – Previously known as ‘custody’, a child’s residency states where, when and with whom a child lives.

Respondent – The person against whom the divorce petition is filed.

Tenancy in Common – A situation whereby a property is owned by two or more parties who have distinct shares which they can control independently.

Without Prejudice – In the context of divorce, ‘without prejudice’ is a legal privilege that when used, means that terms set out in negotiation or in letters cannot be considered in court.

Contact Howells Solicitors - Experts in UK Matrimonial Law

Howells solicitors offer a range of divorce options to suit you. Whether your break is amicable or contentious, our experienced divorce lawyers can advise you on the right course of action.

Call us free on 0808 178 2773 for more information.

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