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Glossary of divorce & family law terms

Our glossary will help you to understand some of the key terms and phrases which might crop up in your legal case.

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

For leading legal advice tailored to your case, contact Vardags today.

Please select from the letters below

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.


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.


A type of witness statement, which is verified by giving an oath or affirmation.


Similar to an oath, made by a person as an alternative to swearing on a Holy Book.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


An independent and impartial person suitably qualified to adjudicate an arbitration.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.


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