Separation and Divorce Glossary

Acknowledgement of Service
In England & Wales, a form sent with the divorce petition. The Respondent completes it to acknowledge receipt of the divorce petition. When returned, service is complete. (See Service.)
Affidavit
A written statement of facts made on oath and signed in the presence of an authorised person (e.g. solicitor). Used as evidence.
Alimony
Money payable to a former spouse after divorce.
Ancillary relief
In England & Wales, long-term maintenance arrangements which take effect once the divorce is complete.
Annulment
A decree which proves that the marriage never existed (e.g. with bigamy). Rare.
Answer
Optional reply to a divorce petition or cross-petition. Known as 'defences' in Scotland.
Applicant
Someone who makes a formal application or request. In the case of court applications, an applicant was formerly called a plaintiff.
Clean break
A final settlement of financial and property matters, so that neither party is dependent on the other. Virtually impossible if there are dependent children of the marriage.
Co-respondent
When adultery is the cause of divorce, the person with whom the respondent is alleged to have committed adultery.
Compromise
An agreement between two or more persons to settle their differences without recourse to the court.
Conciliation
An attempt to agree on the issues of the divorce without arguing them out in court. Appointments may be made to see a conciliation officer at court. The parties may also reach agreement between themselves.
Contempt
Contempt of court is committed either by obstructing the administration of justice or by disobeying orders or other processes of the court. Suppose someone gives an undertaking to the court not to do something, like contact a particular person, and then breaks that undertaking; or a defendant goes on shouting in court when the judge orders them to stop. The court can imprison the culprit until the contempt has been "purged" by an apology and/or undertaking not to repeat the offence.
Costs
The legal cost of litigation, including the fees of solicitors, barristers and expert witnesses and the court fees. Normally the loser is ordered to pay the winner's "taxed" costs. That means that the winner's costs bill must be scrutinised and approved by a Taxing Master who is an officer of the court.
Crave
See Prayer.
Cross action
See Cross petition.
Cross petition
A petition by a respondent in a divorce proceeding alleging different reasons for the divorce. Known as 'cross-action' in Scotland.
Decree absolute
In England & Wales, the final order of court to dissolve the marriage.
Decree nisi
In England & Wales, the provisional order of divorce. Not final until further application made by petitioner (after at least six weeks from decree nisi) and decree absolute is granted.
Defences
In Scotland, optional reply to a divorce petition or cross-petition. Known as 'answer' in England & Wales.
Directions
Court orders laying down procedural steps to be taken by the parties.
Divorce
Termination of a marriage on the ground that it has irretrievably broken down. This is proved by one or more of five facts. See our article 'What are the grounds for divorce?' for more information.
Domicile
The country or state which is your natural home. Professional advice should be sought over this, but someone who has a foreign domicile doesn’t regard the UK as their real home.
Fact
One of five conditions which prove that a marriage has broken down. See our article 'What are the grounds for divorce?' for more information.
Form A
The financial divorce form which, when issued at court, commences the financial application.
Form E
The financial disclosure divorce form which has to be completed by both parties to a financial application.
In Chambers
In private; almost all divorce proceedings are heard this way.
Judicial separation
A decree of the court which declares the parties legally separate, without dissolving the marriage. Can include financial settlement.
Jurisdiction
The authority of courts to deal with a case. English and Scottish courts have jurisdiction for divorce if the domicile or residence qualifications are fulfilled.
Maintenance
A term for the payments made by one spouse to another after divorce.
Mediation
You are now obliged to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before you are able to issue financial or private Children Act proceedings connected with a divorce (except in limited circumstances),
Party
The husband or wife, one of whom will be the divorce petitioner and the other the respondent.
Periodical allowance
See Periodical payments.
Periodical payments
Financial support given by one party to the other. Can be in the form of regular payments (monthly, yearly) or a lump sum. Maintenance of children is almost always assessed by the Child Support Agency. Known as 'periodic allowance' in Scotland.
Petitioner
The person who starts the proceedings leading to divorce. This is done by completing a divorce form of petition and ensuring that it's received by the respondent. Known as 'pursuer' in Scotland.
Prayer
The application at the end of the divorce petition asking for the marriage to be dissolved, and financial relief to be ordered. Known as 'crave' or 'craves' in Scotland.
Property orders
Includes orders for sale of property, orders to change the ownership of property and outright gifts of property.
Pursuer
See Petitioner.
Quickie divorce
Quickie divorce is a colloquial name for the special procedure for undefended divorces based on the facts of adultery or unreasonable behaviour (99 per cent of divorces are achieved this way).
Respondent
The person who receives the divorce petition (the application for divorce). See Acknowledgement of Service.
Section 11 orders
See Section 8 orders.
Section 8 orders
Relate to children and deal with residence and contact orders, among others.
Service
Where one party is presented with a document from the other side (e.g. the divorce petition). Service must be proved in one of a number of ways.
Special Procedure
In England & Wales, the normal practice for undefended divorce, often called a ‘quickie’ divorce.
Statute
An Act of Parliament.

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