Glossary Banner

Do you know the difference between a contact order and a consent order? What happens during the mediation process?

The world of family law can be difficult to understand at times, especially if the scenario touches on sensitive subjects. To help guide you through the process we’ve defined some of the most common family law terms.

Annulment – The legal proceeding that declares a marriage null and void. Furthermore, the marriage is considered invalid from the beginning and it is as if the marriage never took place.

Application (Petition) – The physical document/digital form submitted to the court to apply for a divorce, to dissolve (end) a civil partnership, annul a marriage or civil partnership or get a judicial separation

Applicant (Petitioner) – The person in the marriage or civil partnership who submits the application to the court

Applying for an Order – To resolve certain family disputes it will be necessary for one party to apply for an order. Depending on the situation, there are different types of orders that outline things such as the level of contact a parent is allowed, or whom the child will live with.

Change of Name – It’s possible to change the spelling of your name, change your first, middle or surname, or change to a completely different set of names if you aren’t happy with your current name. Individuals change their name for a number of different reasons such as marriage, divorce, or simply personal preference.

Civil Partnership – The name for a legally recognised partnership that provides similar rights to marriage, civil partnerships can be between both opposite sexes and between same sex couples.

Cohabitation Agreement – An agreement that is put in place to outline the rights and obligations between a couple who have chosen to live together but are not married or in a civil partnership.

Conditional Order (Decree Nisi) – A document that says that the court does not see any reason why the parties cannot divorce, end the civil partnership, or annul the marriage.

Consent Order – A legally binding document that records financial agreements and outlines how joint assets are to be divided during a divorce.

Contact – The agreement for a non-resident parent or another named individual to spend time with a child/children. Contact can be carried out in multiple ways including; face to face, over the phone, email, video call, post, and more.

Contact Order – A court order that states the level of contact a child is able to have with a named individual that they do not live with.

Defending an Order – When an order is put forward to the court, it is possible for the party it is brought against to defend the order if they do not agree with the terms.

Disputed (Defended) – Currently, a respondent to the divorce or dissolution proceedings can defend the application if they disagree with the ‘fact’ the applicant has relied upon for the divorce, or on other grounds for example, jurisdiction. The new law has narrowed the grounds that a respondent can defend the application. This is now only possible on limited grounds

Divorce – The legal process of ending a marriage.

Domestic Abuse – Any incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between intimate partners or family members aged 16 years or over. This covers numerous types of abuse such as physical, sexual, financial, or emotional.

Final Order (Decree Absolute) – The legal document that ends the marriage/civil partnership

Inheritance Tax – Tax on the estate (properties, money, and other possessions) of an individual who has died. There are certain circumstances where inheritance tax does not apply.

Joint Tenancy – A form of property ownership where both parties share the ownership. In the event of the death of a party the other party will automatically inherit their share.

Judicial Separation – A legal separation that doesn’t terminate the marriage, but allows the court to make decisions over financial and property rights.

Judicial Separation Order (Separation Decree) – The document that confirms that the parties to a marriage are legally separated

Litigation – The process of carrying out legal proceedings through the court.

Mediation – An alternative to the court process. Mediation is carried out by a third party in order to help two parties reach an agreement.

Nullity of Marriage Order (Decree of Nullity) – the document that declares that the marriage is void or voidable (this means that no valid marriage exists or existed between two parties). Nullity of marriage orders are in the first instance conditional
and then made final.

Parental Responsibility – All rights, responsibilities, duties, powers, and authority that a parent of a child has. An individual with parental responsibility is able to make decisions about the child’s care and upbringing.

Prenuptial Agreement – An agreement a couple enters before they marry or enter a civil partnership that outlines what will happen to their finances and property in the event of a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

Removal of a Child – The process where the custodial parent moves a child away from the non-custodial parent.

Residence – An agreement that outlines where and with whom a child lives.

Special Guardianship Order – An order that appoints one or more individuals over the age of 18 to be a child’s special guardian. This gives the special guardian greater parental responsibility for the child allowing them to control their involvement in the child’s life.

Trusts – A trust is where property such as land, buildings, or even cash and stocks, is legally owned by an individual or set of individuals on behalf of someone else who is entitled to benefit from that property.