A list of family law terminology to help better understand what lawyers are talking about and some of the specific terms used. This glossary provides general information only. Professional advice should always be taken and we cannot accept any liability for reliance on it.
Acknowledgement of Service
The response form to a divorce petition, must be returned in short time after service, shows if any intention to defend, any dispute on jurisdiction, if children arrangements are agreed. Is exhibited to petitioner’s affidavit in support of the petition, the next stage along with the application for the decree nisi.
Alternative dispute resolution, refers to all forms of settlement other than a court based resolution; includes mediation, directive mediation, lawyers’ negotiation, collaborative law and arbitration. It is not so easy in the international context but can work well with web cams and other communication devices. See the fact sheets.
Sexual intercourse by a married person with a person of the opposite sex, who can be married or unmarried. A basis for divorce. Rarely needs proof as invariably admitted but private investigators have not yet hung up their macs. And some spouses are amazingly careless about hotel receipts, e-mails, personal habits and worse!
Aka a sworn statement, a written statement which has been “sworn” (confirmed as being true before an independent solicitor or court official); the affidavit can be treated as if it is evidence given personally in front of a court after an oath (e.g. “I swear by Almighty God that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” or “I solemnly and sincerely declare that …”). It can be on any religious book. It can be “declared” if no religious belief. Any solicitor can swear a document, often without an appointment. The fee is £5 plus £2 per exhibit.
A colloquial term to refer to spousal maintenance. To be distinguished from child maintenance, sometimes known as child support.
The ludicrous name for court proceedings about financial issues connected with (“ancillary to”) divorce proceedings.
A defence to a divorce petition. Then results in the divorce being defended, which is long, costly and public so much thought and care is needed before defending.
A process by which documents issued in one country have to be authenticated or legalised before they are recognised as valid in another country.
A concept found in a number of European countries which seems thoroughly alien to English lawyers and the English public. The family courts of a country apply not their own local law but the law of another country with which the couple may have a particular connection. Judges find out the foreign law through reading a textbook or going to a website. Anecdotally, the perception is that if the judges do not understand foreign law, they simply apply their own law! Invariably the application of foreign law can be different to it application in the country of the law itself! The European Union is trying to impose its on the United Kingdom and other unwilling EU countries which only ever apply their own local law
A person who starts legal proceedings or makes an application – where this is a petition for divorce, s/he is referred to as “the petitioner”.
A form of independent adjudication but outside the court system and with the opportunity to agree timetables, choice of arbitrator, procedures, location of hearings etc. Can be for all issues in a case or just a narrow point in dispute. Not yet binding in English family law. Watch this space as the government are considering law change.