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Family Law Legal Terms


This is sometimes called a 'sworn statement'. It is a document which we will prepare for you, setting out information about your case. You will then need to swear, on oath in front of a Solicitor or a member of the County Court staff, that it is true. You you should never sign an Affidavit that is untrue as this can result in serious penalties if it comes to light later.

Ancillary Relief

This is the phrase associated with the aspects of your divorce or separation which deal with money, property and other assets. It is a general term describing Orders by the Country Court in relation to these matters.


Barristers are lawyers who spend the majority of their time offering very specialist advice on particular legal points, and arguing cases in Court. A barrister is sometimes referred to as 'Counsel'. Although many solicitors argue cases in Court (this is known as advocacy) themselves, they will generally instruct barristers where a matter is complicated.

Children's Appointment

This usually only takes place if there is disagreement about the arrangements regarding the children. It is a meeting held in private at the County Court between the Judge and the parents so that the Judge can be satisfied about the arrangements which are being proposed.

Circuit Judge

This is a senior Judge who will deal with the most complicated cases involving children and also hears appeals from the District Judge.


This is the process by which a Court Welfare Officer or Conciliator tries to help parents to reach agreement about the arrangements for children. In some circumstances cases are referred to a mediation service without there being Court proceedings; this is encouraged as a way of trying to minimise acrimonious disputes.

Decree Nisi

This is a preliminary order indicating that it has been proved to the Court's satisfaction that there are grounds for divorce.

Decree Absolute

This is the Court Order which officially ends the marriage.

District Judge

This is the official who deals with most stages of divorce proceedings including hearing applications for ancillary relief and many matters affecting children.


This is an emergency Order of the Court, usually applied for in order to protect an individual who is potentially in danger from violence in the home. This can result in the offending spouse being ordered to leave or keep away from the home; failure to do so possibly resulting in being sent to prison. Other types of injunction can also be taken out in relation to money or property where there is a danger that one spouse is going to try to give away or sell assets which should be divided fairly as part of the marriage settlement.

Legal Help

This is a type of public funding which, if you are eligible, enables a solicitor to give you preliminary advice and to obtain a divorce or judicial separation but does not cover any applications to the Court about disputes in relation to money or children.

Lump sum

This is the term used to describe applications relating to capital and the general assets of the marriage; property and ongoing maintenance are considered separately.

Maintenance Pending Suit

This is the term applied to an application to the Court for temporary maintenance.

Periodical Payments

This refers to more permanent maintenance arrangements.

Property Adjustment

This describes applications in relation to the ownership of property.

Public Funding Certificate

This covers the more complex aspects of a divorce or judicial separation. Eligibility depends on your financial position.

Statement of Arrangements

This is the form which details all the aspects of a child's life.