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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.

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Parental Responsibility

This refers to all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent can have in relation to a child such as education or medical treatment. Where parents are married at the time of a child's birth or subsequently marry or if the father is named on the birth certificate, they each have parental responsibility. Where this is not the case, the mother has parental responsibility alone until she agrees that the father should have it (a short form must be filed at court) or the court grants it to the father. Each parent with parental responsibility may act alone, although responsible parenthood means endeavouring to agree matters with the other parent.

Pension Sharing

An order sharing a pension on divorce so that the recipient has a share of their former husband or wife's pension which can often be transferred to a pension scheme of their own. Considerable care is needed when reaching settlements in respect of foreign pension schemes.

Petition

The divorce petition is the document which starts a divorce. It must set out the fact and jurisdiction relied on in order to commence proceedings. It must be lodged at court together with the original marriage certificate and other accompanying documents including a statement setting out the arrangements for the children.

Petitioner

The party who presents the divorce petition at court is known as the Petitioner.

Polygamous Marriages

In certain circumstances polygamous marriages are recognised under English law as valid marriages. It is important to distinguish between actual polygamous marriages where one spouse is already married and potentially polygamous marriages where under the law of the country where the marriage took place permits one party to subsequently take another spouse.

Principal Registry of the Family Division

The primary family court, based at First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1B 6NP, close to Chancery Lane tube station.

Prohibited Steps Order

A prohibited steps order prevents the taking of certain steps in relation to a child for example removing them from the UK or from the care of a certain person, or changing their name.

Property

"Property" is all non-income resources of either party to a marriage or civil partnership. It includes homes (as well as second homes and investment properties), bank accounts and investments, pensions, trust accounts, assets held by others on one's behalf, debts, company and business interests and all other resources available to either spouse anywhere in the world now and in the foreseeable future. Whether held personally, in trust or in companies or held by others in their name on one's behalf, all available resources must be disclosed.

 

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