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Glossary of Legal Terms

We set out below a list of family law terminology to try and assist you in better understand what lawyers are talking about and some of the specific terms used. This glossary provides general information only. Specialist professional advice should always be taken and we cannot accept any liability for reliance on it.



Judicial or other proceedings

English law recognises foreign divorces or civil partnership dissolutions in two categories: those obtained by judicial and other proceedings and those obtained other than by means of proceedings;

A divorce or dissolution obtained abroad by judicial and other proceedings includes a divorce or dissolution obtained through civil court proceedings in another country. However, this category also includes divorces / dissolutions obtained outside of the civil courts but with the involvement of some state official or officially approved agency as recognised by the law of the country where it was obtained. This may sometimes include a religious body, a local administrative agency or other official, state law approved authorities. Legal advice should be obtained.

'Non-proceedings divorce' or 'non-proceedings dissolution' have different criteria to be satisfy. It can be informal or outside state registered organisations. But there need to be a good records and the other party must have a good opportunity to take part. It is harder to obtain recognition of a foreign 'non-proceedings divorce' or 'non-proceedings dissolution'.

Judicial Separation

A mostly historical provision, stating that a couple are separated legally. It is used by some from religious communities. A judicial separation requires the same grounds as a divorce and is not required for tax purposes. A judicial separation cannot provide the same finality of financial settlement, and it is not possible to implement a pension sharing order on a judicial separation. not used so much now pension sharing powers.


Jurisdiction can be used to refer to a country or federal state but more often refers to the connection a party to proceedings must have with a country to allow that country to deal with those proceedings, or the power to make a particular order. Sometimes more than one country has possible jurisdiction, and there can be big advantages to one spouse to have the proceedings in one country and not another. See forum shopping. This can result in a forum dispute. Where two or more EU countries are involved, Brussels II says that the first to issue secures jurisdiction so speed in issuing is vital

Jurisdiction Clause

A clause in an agreement such as a pre-marriage or marital agreement stating in which country the couple would want any proceedings to take place. England gives these clauses considerable importance in deciding any forum dispute and greater weight than other elements of the agreement. Sometimes a clause may state which country's laws the couple would want to deal with any proceedings; England construes this as a jurisdiction clause as to preference for the country to deal with the case.


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