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.
Notary or Notaire
A form of lawyer found in some European countries. Unlike the lawyer in England and many other countries who acts solely for one party in a potential conflict, the notary acts for both and gives joint advice and information. The notary prepares pre-marriage and other marital agreements, without separate representation and often without any disclosure. The notary often attends to division of the marital capital, again without separate representation. Many representative lawyers are uneasy about the role and work of the notary and recommend separate representation if there is any risk of a conflict.
A decree of nullity is available in circumstances where a marriage is void or voidable. Unlike divorce, it is not necessary to have been married for one year to obtain a decree of nullity.
A void marriage means that the marriage never existed despite the marriage ceremony. The grounds for a void marriage are contained in s11 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (“MCA 1973”). An example is where one party is already married. It tends to be in circumstances where there has been a fundamental breach of the circumstances of getting married. A voidable marriage means that the marriage exists until it is set aside. The grounds are contained in s12 MCA 1973. An example includes non-consummation. As in divorce proceedings, ancillary relief orders are available. However, unlike divorce, there is no special procedure and so a hearing in open, public court must take place with a necessity to prove the grounds. This means that nullity proceedings are more expensive than divorce. For this reason some who have grounds to obtain nullity of divorce e.g. refusal to consummate, choose instead to proceed with divorce. It must not be confused with papal annulment.