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Glossary of divorce & family law terms
Letter D

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

Declaration of trust

A formal document creating a trust.

Decree absolute

The second order in relation to divorce proceedings, officially ending the marriage.

Decree nisi

The first order in relation to divorce proceedings, saying that there is no reason not to grant a divorce. The marriage does not end at this point.

Decree of Judicial Separation

An order of the court terminating spousal obligations between the parties. The parties remain legally married.

Defaulting party

Person who fails to pay money they have been required to pay by a court order.

Defended divorce

When the respondent disagrees with the petitioner’s divorce petition.


The abandonment of one spouse; a ground for divorce in certain circumstances.

Direct access barrister

A barrister able to take instructions directly from a client as opposed to through solicitors. Also known as: direct access silk, direct access attorney

Directions order

An order made by a judge setting out what the parties should do to progress the case smoothly.


The provision of information. In financial remedy proceedings, parties are required to disclose evidence of their financial circumstances.

Discretionary trust

A trust where the beneficiaries and their entitlements are not fixed, but determined by the trust document and the trustees' discretion.

Dispute Resolution Appointment - DRA

Dispute Resolution Appointment – a type of hearing in children proceedings, in which the parties to negotiate an agreement.


The same as a divorce, but for civil partnerships.

District Judge

The lowest level of full-time judge. Most non-complex financial and children cases are heard by this level of judge.


To legally end a marriage thus terminating all spousal obligations to each other.

Divorce barrister

A specialist barrister who will represent their client in court, speaking on the client’s behalf and acting on instructions in relation to divorce and family law.

Divorce chambers

Essentially a barrister’s office. Barristers are self-employed but work in chambers. Also known as: family chambers

Divorce lawyer

The specialist lawyer with the day to day running of the case. Also known as: divorce solicitor

Divorce petition

The application to the court to initiate divorce proceedings. Also known as: divorce papers

Divorce proceedings

The applications to the court to dissolve the marriage and terminate all legal obligations to the spouse.

Divorce settlement

A common phrase to refer to the conclusion of divorce proceedings and the financial proceedings.

DIY divorce

Parties to the divorce agree matters between them and initiate divorce proceedings without instructing solicitors to act on their behalf.

Domestic Violence Intervention Programme

A programme designed for perpetrators of domestic violence, to help them cope with anger.

Domicile (in divorce proceedings)

A complex legal term. A person can only have one domicile. A person’s domicile can be their ‘domicile of origin’ which they are born with or ‘domicile of choice’, the place they elect to reside. It is common for the domicile of choice to replace domicile of origin when a person moves to another country with the intention to settle there permamently. Domicile is an important factor in determining jurisdiction.

Domicile of choice

A new domicile acquired by severing all links with one's domcile of origin.

Domicile of origin

The default domicile. This will most likely be the country in which your father was domiciled at the time of your birth.

Duxbury calculation

An actuarial calculation used to determine the lump sum necessary to provide a party with the income they need for life.

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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