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Glossary of divorce & family law terms

The Vardags Family Law Glossary, compiled by our top divorce and family lawyers, will help you to understand some of the key terms and phrases which might crop up in your divorce.

This guide is no replacement for top legal advice but will allow you to know more about the divorce process and what it entails.

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  • A v A order See Legal Services Order.
  • Acknowledgement of Service A court document setting out that you have received an application or petition from the other side. How you complete this form may affect the outcome of your case.
  • Active growth Increase in value of non-matrimonial assets which is due to the endeavours of one of the parties during the marriage.
  • Adultery Involves one spouse having sexual intercourse with a person who is not their spouse. A ground for divorce. Also known as: having an affair.
  • Adverse inferences Where a party has failed to provide proper disclosure the court can assume that they have deliberately hidden assets and make an order based on the assumptions and inferences it is possible to draw from the existing evidence.
  • Affidavit A type of witness statement, which is verified by giving an oath or affirmation.
  • Affirmation Similar to an oath, made by a person as an alternative to swearing on a Holy Book.
  • Alimony An American term for maintenance.
  • Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) Attempts to come to resolve matters without using the courts. Common ADR in family disputes include arbitration and mediation.
  • Ancillary relief Term previously used for financial remedies proceedings.
  • Annulment Formal declaration that a marriage is void, with the effect that the marriage is considered never to have taken place in the eyes of the law. Also known as: nullity
  • Anton Pillar order This is an order for the search of premises and the seizure of documents or evidence. It will only be granted in the most exceptional of circumstances.
  • Appeal An application to a higher court to overturn the decision from the lower court.
  • Appeal out of time Bringing an appeal after the normal time limit has expired. This can normally only be done in certain exceptional circumstances.
  • Appellant The party appealing a decision of the lower court.
  • Applicant (in divorce proceedings) The party making the application to the court, for example making an application to the court for assistance in financial matters through the Form A.
  • Application Asking the court to make an order.
  • Application for Deemed Service Where a respondent fails to return the acknowledgment of service, the petitioner can progress the case by apply for an order that service is deemed to have taken place.
  • Arbitration (in divorce and finance proceedings) A form of dispute resolution, where a neutral third party makes binding decisions in place of a judge.
  • Arbitrator An independent and impartial person suitably qualified to adjudicate an arbitration.