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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.




English law will give substantial weight, or even treat as if in effect binding a marital / civil partnership agreement which was "fairly" entered into. "Fairly" includes an absence of any duress, undue pressure or misrepresentation. The law expects each to know the financial and other relevant circumstances of the other and what they may be giving up by entering into the agreement, (or choosing not to want to know). The law also expects each to have had independent legal advice to make sure each knows their rights and to overcome possible duress or pressure (or to have chosen not to take legal advice). Analysis of the terms of a marital/civil partnership agreement by a court will consider the circumstances in which it was entered into.


Objective of financial outcome; comprises features of needs, sharing and compensation.

Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing

This is the second court hearing. In advance of the hearing both parties make proposals for settlement. At the FDR hearing the Judge gives an indication as to the order that may be made at a final hearing. The hearing is designed to encourage the parties to reach a negotiated agreement.

Financial Procedure

The court process is designed to reduce delay, limit costs and increase the prosects of a party reaching a negotiated settlement. It involves up to three court hearings:

  1. The first court hearing is known as the First Appointment (FA) at which directions are given for the steps that are required to take the case forward. Common directions provide for the production of documents, answers to questionnaires, valuation of properties etc.
  2. The second hearing is known as a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR). It is a court assisted negotiation process focused on finding a settlement without the costs of a fully contested hearing and when offers are known to the court. At an FDR the judge "predicts" what would happen if the case went to a final hearing, but can only make an order by agreement. Both parties must attend both hearings unless the court allows you not to, which is rare.
  3. In the event that the case does not settle at an FDR the case will be listed for a final hearing at which a Judge will hear evidence from the parties and make a final order.
First Appointment

This is the first court hearing in the resolution of financial matters at which the court makes directions as to how the case should proceed. This will usually include directions for the production of further information, valuations of properties and the valuation of properties.

Forced Marriages

A marriage in which one spouse is forced against their will to take part. Force includes actual physical compulsion or emotional and psychological compulsion. A court can make protective orders for those who fear they are about to be forced into a marriage and for those who have already gone through a forced marriage. These orders can include powers of arrest and the setting aside of a forced marriage, and can relate to conduct in England or abroad. Third parties can apply to the court for protective orders for those being forced into a marriage.

Form A

The form which starts the court based financial procedure. The application is in a fairly standard form but usually includes all possible forms of financial provision, even though not all may be sought

Form E

This is the statement of financial circumstances prepared both within court proceedings and other types of negotiation. It is a long and comprehensive document which requires quite a considerable amount of accompanying documents to verify and corroborate the content.

Formalities and capacity

For a marriage or civil partnership abroad to be recognised by English law there must be two elements namely formalities and capacity.

'Formalities' means that all of the necessary formal requirements for the wedding / civil partnership according to the law of the country where it took place have been satisfactorily complied with. It covers such matters as giving of notice, the formalities of the ceremony itself, the location of the ceremony and the person officiating and other formal arrangements. It does not matter if England would not have the same formalities. If they were complied with where the marriage/civil partnership took place, then England will recognise the foreign marriage/civil partnership.

The capacity of each person to enter into a marriage/civil partnership is decided according to the law of the country with which they had long-term connection, known as domicile, before the marriage/civil partnership. It would cover such matters as consent including any parental permission, age, gender, any family/blood ties, and mental awareness of capacity to enter into a marriage/civil partnership, not being already married or in a civil partnership and similar. It does not matter if England has different requirements of capacity. It is the law of each party's country before the marriage / civil partnership which decides on capacity requirements.


Refers to the country in which the legal proceedings will proceed. The parties need a certain connection with a country before that country can deal with a case. This may be based on residency, nationality, domicile, an agreement or other factors. Where there is potentially more than one country that can deal with a divorce, the process of identifying the most advantageous jurisdiction is known as forum shopping. A dispute between countries about which country should deal with a case is known as a forum dispute.

Forum Dispute

Proceedings to decide which country's court should dealt with her family's relationship dispute. Between many countries, the criteria is discretionary based on the country to which the parties have the closest connection. Within the European Union it is only which country first receives the proceedings and there is no discretion to consider closest connection.

Forum Shopping

Where two or more countries may be able to deal with the proceedings it is important to identify the most advantageous jurisdiction. This is known as forum shopping. There are lots of different factors to be taken into account when identifying where best to divorce, and it is important that early specialist family law advice is taken in both countries, particularly so if there are two or more European Countries with jurisdiction.

Freezing Orders

An injunction order to prevent the use or disposal of assets e.g. bank accounts, properties etc until the final hearing, including assets held abroad. These orders are often granted when it is feared one spouse will divert assets in order to defeat the other's claim.


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