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.
The new name for the Child Support Agency. Cynics suspect new name but fear same old inefficiencies
The court service of children and family reporters who prepare reports in some child disputes.
It was during Mr and Mrs Calderbank’s divorce case that these offers first came to be considered by the courts. A letter making an offer, valid once disclosure has been completed. The offer cannot be shown to the court, even if the case reaches a final hearing, until the court has decided what capital/maintenance orders to make. The court then sees the offers that have been made and use it to help make up its mind about whether or not to order one side to pay towards the legal costs of the other. If someone receives a Calderbank offer, rejects it and does less well at court, there is a risk of having to pay some or all of the costs of the other side. It needs careful attention because of these costs risks. They are no longer effective to give costs protection for applications made to the court after April 2006.
A method of working out a lump sum to provide for income requirements in lieu of spousal maintenance, sometimes known as alimony. It is calculated by reference to a range of financial and actuarial assumptions to provide a stream of income to replace maintenance payments for the rest of the recipient’s life. For example, a husband might pay a sum of £100,000 to his wife aged 60 to provide her with an income of about £10,000 a year for the rest of her life. It enables clean breaks. It is now less used following White.
A notice lodged at the Land Registry to prevent someone selling, transferring or mortgaging a property.
Part of the government which deals with other countries on cross border family law cases including child abduction cases.
CETV (Or Cash Equivalent Transfer Value)
One of the valuations given to a pension fund. Roughly, if the fund were transferred to another pension provider at the given date, it is the figure that the new pension provider would receive. It is often the figure given most weight in the courts and by family lawyers in negotiations; but other approaches to valuations may sometimes be more beneficial or appropriate.
Capital Gains Tax, a tax that is charged when an asset is disposed of and which is linked to the increase in value of the asset during ownership. Specialist advice is needed if an issue, which we can arrange for you.
All family cases are heard in private, known as in chambers except, for example, defended divorces, granting of decrees nisi, some appeals. However judgements in final hearings can sometimes be publicly reported in the High Court; another reason to settle.
A major Court of Appeal decision in 2008 which provided very good, practical guidance on what the House of Lords was intending to say in Miller. It stated that equality of division was now the principle of English financial provision law. It distinguished matrimonial acquest property, in essence the assets which were acquired during the marriage and cohabitation, and non matrimonial property which includes premarital assets, inheritances and gifts and some post separation assets. Matrimonial acquest property is likely to be divided equally provided reasonable needs are satisfied. Non-matrimonial property starts with equality dividing but it may be possible to show good fairness reasons to depart from equality
Taking a child aboard without the consent of both parents; primarily one parent taking abroad without the consent of the other parent. Also includes taking a child abroad for a short time with consent but then retaining the child abroad without consent. It is a criminal offence. Many countries have signed up to the Hague Convention in which countries co-operate for the speedy return of abducted children. The parent whose child has been abducted is entitled to free legal representation. Often courts act very fast with substantial powers to locate an abducted child and secure the child’s return. See our Fact sheet
Child of the family
Includes a non natural child of the relationship who has nevertheless been treated as a full child of the family.
An application by one parent to take a child permanently abroad. Requires careful preparation before the application is made.
Choice of law
Rules which determine which country’s laws will be applied to a particular case. See applicable law. England only ever applies its own local, English law.
A state registered relationship between two people of the same sex. Is not a marriage which can be only of two people of opposite sex. Ends on a termination, not divorce. Financial powers for orders on termination are similar to divorce.
The situation where the court has ended all orders and ongoing obligations that could be made between parties in relation to finances (apart from any ongoing arrangements for the support of children). It is often of psychological advantage to obtain this after a divorce, if it is financially possible. Sometimes it is achieved by capitalisation (see above) of maintenance.
The person of the opposite sex with whom the “Respondent” has had a sexual relationship, thus forming the basis for an adultery petition; they are now rare given that it is considered good practice not to identify such persons by name.
Living together without being married or in a civil partnership. Can apply to opposite sex or same sex. The law gives more restricted rights on separation or death than for marrieds. Accordingly we recommend all cohabiting couples to enter into a “cohabitation agreement” to record their intentions for the future. This is often binding on a court.
A form of ADR where specially trained lawyers acting for each party resolve cases via meetings. A condition is that if either party later commences proceedings both must then instruct new lawyers. Some regard this as a fundamental flaw, some regard it as its strength. Only appropriate for some cases where some degree of trust.
Was often confused with reconciliation, which it was not, and mediation which it is. Mediation (see below) is now the preferred word.
Often the first hearing in children dispute cases in London when a district judge with a children court reporter will see what element of agreement can be reached without further litigation. Children over 9 must attend. Can sometimes be very successful.
Is very bad behaviour which the court will only take into account if it is exceptional and would be inequitable to disregard. Rarely raised and even less rarely successfully argued.
Where both parties agree in writing about terms that are then lodged at court. Order often made without anyone attending. Often needs some disclosure (e.g. Form M1 in finance cases) so court can be satisfied it is a fair order.
An innovation introduced in late 2008 to encourage compliance with contact orders. It is a programme intended to facilitate and monitor contact and which either one or both parents may be asked to complete. The activity is free of charge if the parent is publically funded, but if not, the parent may not have to pay if they can claim financial hardship. When making a contact order, a Court can direct or order that they attend one of the following activities:
- Information/Assessment Meeting about Mediation, A one-off session to provide information and/or assess suitability of mediation.
- Parenting Information Programmes, Typically two two-hour group work sessions intended to encourage safe and beneficial contact by providing support through information on parenting after separation, how parents and their children can be affected and ways to change things for the better.
- Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes, Intensive sixty hours’ intervention aimed at challenging and addressing abusive behaviour of the participants. Victims and any current partners may also be involved.
Centres across the country often run by charitable organisations, which provide a neutral and safe meeting place for contact to take place. If there are any anxieties about certain care arrangements for the child, the court can order that contact will take place in a contact centre. It is invariably only short-term. The contact centre staff will not necessarily supervise the contact itself. Handover of contact visits can sometimes take place at a contact centre with contact itself taking place outside the centre.
A contact order is made under s8 of the Children Act 1989 and requires the person with whom the child is living to allow the child to visit or stay with another or to allow to child to have other contact or communication with another. (This was formerly known as “Access”.) There may be more than one contact order made in respect of a child.
The contact may be overnight contact when a child stays with one parent overnight. This is sometimes also referred to as staying contact.
There can be indirect contact such as opportunities to telephone, write cards and letters and use Web Cam. This may be when it is not yet appropriate for direct face-to-face contact or it may be supplemental to direct contact or used when a child is in another country
There can be supervised contact and contact at a contact centre. This may arise when there are anxieties for the child, for any parental meeting surrounding contact and sometimes when anxieties about the parent who is having contact. It is invariably hoped that such contact will move in time to unsupervised and direct face-to-face contact.
Contact arrangements always depend on the best interests of the child and are affected by matters of geography, travel arrangements, work commitments and similar. There is no one contact arrangements for everyone. Nevertheless where geography, travel and work arrangements permit, it is quite usual for the so-called contact parent to collect a child from school on Friday afternoon and return on a Monday morning on alternative weekends, perhaps also see the child for a few hours one weeknight a week or perhaps overnight one night a week with collection from school and return to school the following morning, perhaps one telephone call a week and equally sharing school holidays. This of course depends on the child’s own commitments and making sure that arrangements for the child’s clothes and schoolbooks can work well.
can refer to:
- the order that one party pays a sum contributing to the legal fees incurred by the other (the court might make an order “husband to pay the wife’s costs”);
- the fees incurred with their own solicitor (the solicitor might say “my costs are £x”);
- more confusingly still, s/he might be referring to the overall sum that the client is due to pay or the smaller part of the bill that his/her firm is due to receive – i.e. the total of the bill including counsel’s fees and court fees etc or just the amount after VAT that will receive.
Aka a barrister
Individuals or couples are supported to explore and clarify personal issues and difficulties and to make/manage any changes in their lives. Counselling is confidential and non-judgemental, enabling people to raise matters of intimate, personal concern in complete safety. Counsellors encourage clients to develop an understanding of their problems and create their own choices regarding further action. They do not tell or advise clients what do to. Counselling can last for a few sessions or can be longer, depending on the individual/couple’s needs and circumstances.
The Child Support Agency which has a set formula to calculate child support. 15% of net income if one child, 20% if two and 25% if three or more. Court can only make child support orders by consent. CSA assessments affected by level of contact. Disregards resident parent’s resources. Does not apply if either parent or child is abroad. The Agency has been an almost unfettered failure and in 2008 was replaced by C-MEC – another agency with, at present, the same formula and rules!