Divorce is not only a highly emotional subject; it can also appear to be very complex, full of terminology and legal jargon that people may not have been exposed to before.

As leading men’s divorce lawyers, Cordell & Cordell is all too aware of the extensive variety of terms used within this area of family law and the potentially confusing legislation surrounding divorce.

To help simplify the array of terms that clients are likely to be faced with through proceedings, Cordell & Cordell has compiled a divorce glossary, taking the most common terms and explaining them in a clear and easily understandable way.

Glossary Terms

Anti-Harassment Injunction

An injunction is a court order that instructs a person that they are not permitted to commit a certain act. An anti-harassment injunction prohibits someone from harassing another person. The prohibited acts will include stalking, nuisance calls and making threats.

Child Custody

This term refers to the responsible adult who has care and charge of a child. Nowadays, custody is more commonly called residency, referring to a child’s main residence following the divorce or separation of their parents. If parents are unable to decide on child residency arrangements, a court will make the decision for them.

Clean Break Order/Agreement

A clean break order is an order made by a court following a divorce, which has the effect of preventing both parties from making any further financial claims on each other. Clean break orders are most frequently granted in relatively short-lived marriages where there are no dependent children.

Child Maintenance

Sometimes called child support, child maintenance means financial payments towards a child’s everyday living costs. Only court-ordered child maintenance payments are legally enforceable.

CSA Payments

The CSA is the Child Maintenance Service, which is an organisation that, in certain circumstances, will collect and pass on child maintenance payments.

Declaration of Parentage

If the identity of a child’s father is disputed, either party may apply to the court for a declaration of parentage. It may be necessary to seek the assistance of family law solicitors in this case.

Decree Absolute

This is the court order that ends a marriage. On receipt of a decree absolute, a couple is no longer married.

Decree Nisi

This is a court order that confirms that a marriage has irretrievably broken down and that the grounds for divorce have been proven. After six weeks, the petitioner can then apply for the decree absolute. Divorce solicitors in London and elsewhere can guide parties through the entire procedure.

Divorce Act

There is no legislation with this title in the UK. Instead, the relevant divorce laws are contained in a patchwork of statutes, dating as far back as the Marriage Act 1949.

Grounds for Divorce

Irretrievable breakdown is the only ground for divorce in the UK. However, there are five ways of showing such irretrievable breakdown: 1) Adultery (provided the couple has not continued living together for more than six months after the last adulterous act was discovered). 2) Unreasonable behaviour. 3) Two years separation (provided both parties consent). 4) Two years desertion. 5) Five years separation (if only one party consents).

Joint Custody

Joint (or shared) custody is now more commonly known as joint (or shared) residency. Although in many cases residency is granted to the mother, shared residency arrangements are becoming increasingly common. With shared residency, the children split their time between both parents. It would not necessarily be a 50-50 arrangement, and the court will always be guided by the child’s best interests. Fathers interested in pursuing shared residency may wish to seek out men’s divorce lawyers who are used to facilitating such arrangements.

Paternal Custody

This refers to a situation where a father has residency of his child following a divorce or separation. This is not a common outcome in the UK.

Primary Custody

This refers to the adult, usually a parent, who has residency of a child following a divorce or separation. In the absence of any compelling reason not to, courts tend to award residency to the child’s primary carer. Often, although not always, this is the mother. Divorce lawyers in London and across the rest of the country can provide specific help and guidance on individual situations.

Residency Order

If, following divorce or separation, the parents are unable to agree where a child should live, a court may decide for them. This will take the form of a residency order and is legally binding.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is one that is not being defended by the other party. It is not always necessary for the parties involved in an uncontested divorce to seek the help of a solicitor, although it may be prudent if there are any issues concerning the splitting of assets.

Wardship/Ward of Court

A ward of court is a person who has a court-appointed guardian. Usually, the ward is a child or young person, and the effect of the wardship is to grant the court legal guardianship in order to ensure that child’s protection.