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Divorce jargon buster

Plain English information on divorce & family law

The law can be confusing but we pride ourselves on giving advice in plain English. You will however find that the courts and other lawyers will use jargon all the time especially the names of certain court documents. This section is intended to provide a simple definition for each of the documents you might be asked to sign or provide.

Acknowledgement of service
When the court posts the divorce papers to the Respondent, he or she has to fill in an online form, to confirm that they have received the Application for divorce and agree it can go ahead.

CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. A CAFCASS officer focuses on the needs and well-being of children involved in divorce cases. These social workers prepare reports regarding the children and in the event of a disputed child proceeding, they advise the Court on the best option for the child.

Child arrangement order
Either parent can apply for an order, used to decide arrangements for the child to live, spend time and have contact with both parents.

Civil partnership
This is a legal union between a same-sex couple, giving them the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Consent order
If the parties agree on who gets what after a divorce, you can apply to the court for a financial and property order, without the need for a court hearing. The consent order usually contains a ‘clean-break’ clause, and this means that it is final and binding, and prevents either party from making any further claims against the other for life, or against their estate should anything happen to them. This is known as a clean-break order.

Decree nisi
From 6th April 2022 decree nisi was renamed a conditional order.

Once your affidavit has been sent to the court, the Judge will read your petition, and all the other papers, and will in most cases send us a certificate to say that your divorce will be granted. The Judge will also fix a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. This Decree is the first Decree, and you will have to wait another six weeks for the divorce to be finalised.

Decree absolute
From 6th April 2022 decree nisi was renamed a final order.

This is the legal ending of the divorce. Once this has been granted, your marriage has been dissolved and you are legally single.

Divorce is the legal process for ending a marriage. The divorce itself does not include settling finances or arrangements for any children of the marriage.

Domicile is a legal point which takes into account where a person was born, where they are living now and where they plan to live.  It is relevant in considering in which country you should apply for divorce.

Form E
The Form E collects details of all the assets and liabilities in the marriage including property and pensions. This is the form you and your spouse will need to complete in order for an agreement about finances to be reached through the courts.

Habitual residence
This refers to a person’s usual place of residence; the place with which they have a firm and established connection. It would normally be based on evidence of a reasonably long-term stay in that country together with other evidence of the individual’s personal and professional life to demonstrate the continuity of the connection between that person and the place of residence.

Marriage is a legal contract between two individuals. It creates the concept of joint assets and liabilities.

This is an option for couples unable to reach agreements concerning their children and finances. A mediator assists the husband and wife in discussions of these topics.

Parental responsibility
This refers to the established rights and responsibilities a parent has for his or her child before, during and after the divorce proceedings.

From 6th April 2022 the divorce petition was renamed a divorce application.

This is the main document in divorce proceedings. It contains factual details, such as the parties’ full names and addresses, the date and place of marriage and brief details of why the marriage broke down. The document also contains a request for the court to dissolve the marriage, and may also contain claims for maintenance, pension-sharing orders and orders concerning other assets of the marriage such as the house.

Petitioner / Applicant
The party who files the petition at court is known as the Petitioner. This will be you, if you are bringing the divorce.

Since April 2022 the petitioner has been known as the Applicant.

Prenuptial agreement
A prenuptial agreement is a document in which a couple set out their rights in relation to any property, debts, income and other assets purchased together or acquired individually (eg, through inheritance), or that they have bought into a relationship.

Prohibited steps
This is a court order that specifies prohibited actions of the parents, such as moving out of the country or changing the child’s surname.

The respondent is the other party in the divorce. This will be you if your partner is the one applying for divorce.

Separation agreement
This is for couples who may or may not have been married but who intend to separate and want a legal document drawn up to confirm arrangements for their finances.

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