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Legal Terms - Divorce

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Any legal process can be intimidating, often largely due to confusing legal jargon. Julie-Ann Harris, Family Solicitor, outlines the meaning of some of the terms used in the divorce process.

Acknowledgement of Service

A form sent by the Court to the respondent (and co-respondent, if any) with the divorce petition. The form asks questions in respect of the petition and its’ return to the Court establishes service of the petition.


Sexual relations with a third party whilst married, or before the Decree Absolute is granted.


A formal statement sworn under oath.

Ancillary Relief

A financial or property adjustment order made by the Court.


Formal defence to a divorce petition. Strict time limits apply to filing an answer.


A criminal offence committed when someone still legally married marries someone else

Bona Fide

True or genuine, given in good faith.


The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services for England and Wales.

Charge on Property

Security entitling the holder of the Charge to be paid out of the proceeds of sale when a house (or other property) is sold.

Clean Break

A one-off order that deals with all the finances between a husband and wife. There can be no subsequent claim.


Living together when unmarried.


A process of mediation to help couples reach agreement on issues related to divorce.

Consent Order

Order made by the Court in terms agreed by both parties.


Previously known as access. An order made under The Children Act for the child to visit or stay with the absent parent.


The person with whom the respondent has committed adultery.

Cross Petition

When the respondent argues different grounds for the divorce from those put forward by the petitioner.


Now called Residence.

Decree Nisi

Provisional order for divorce showing that the Court is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been established.

Decree Absolute

The final court order that ends a marriage.

Directions for Trial

When the Judge considers the petition and affidavit and asks for further information to be provided before issuing a Decree Nisi.


Full information relating to financial details about income, capital, assets and liabilities. This can be done voluntarily or the Court can order it.


Normally the country where you were born unless a new domicile has been adopted by taking up permanent residence in another country.

Ex Parte

Application made directly to the Court without prior notice to the party or parties.


The petition, affidavits etc left with the Court Office for sealing and service.


Order made by the Court telling someone what they must do or refrain from doing.

Minutes of Order

Draft terms of agreement placed before the Court with a request that a consent order be made in the same terms.

Non-molestation Order

To prohibit someone using threatening or violent behaviour towards you, or harassing or intimidating you.

Notice of Application

Forms on which applications to the Court are made containing full details of what is applied for.

Pending Suit

While the divorce process is on-going – (before the Decree Nisis has been granted)


The document requesting a divorce or Judicial Separation.


The person who starts divorce proceedings by filing a petition with the Court.

Prohibited Steps Order

Court Order used to prohibit something being done to a child – eg – removing the child from the country.


The spouse who receives and responds to the petition for divorce.

Special Procedure

When a divorce is undefended the decree can be issued without wither spouse having to appear at Court.

Statement of Arrangements for Children

Form sent to the Court with the divorce petition setting out proposed arrangements for the children. This form should be agreed the both parents and signed, if possible.

Undefended Divorce

Where there is no dispute about the dissolution of the marriage.

Without Prejudice

This is a way of preventing the Court from knowing about any negotiations which did not result in an agreement. Usually seen at the start of a letter.

For a free initial meeting please call 01202 499255 and Julie-Ann or a member of her team will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.