Family Law Jargon Buster

Paramountcy Principle

The court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. In other words, what is in the best interests of the child? The court will consider each child’s circumstances separately. The court can make a section 8 order in respect of a child until they are 16 years old.

Child Maintenance

This is very similar to periodic al payments between adults but is paid for the benefit of children. This is usually handled through the Child Support Agency although the Court can in very particular circumstances make a child periodical payments/maintenance order

Contact Order

A contact order means an order requiring the person with whom a child lives, or is to live, to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order, or for that person and the child to have contact with each other. In other words, the court can define where and when a child is to see the parent that he does not ordinarily live with or another person who wishes to see the child. When the court is concerned that there are potential risks to the child’s welfare, the court can require contact to be supervised.
There are no set rules as to how often or for how long a child should spend with the non-resident parent. Each case is decided on the specific facts. The starting point for the court is that a child should have contact with its non-resident parent so long as it is safe to do so.


All parties in financial remedy proceedings whether divorce or civil partnership proceedings, are required to provide “full and frank” disclosure of all relevant information in respect of their means and finances. The Court will not look favourably on a party who is not open and up front about their financial circumstances. Disclosure can include bank statements, bills, valuations, pension certificates, shares, accounts, and anything else relevant to a person’s financial affairs.

Final Hearing

The hearing after the FDR where the Court will hear all the evidence (both in terms of written evidence and witnesses) and make a decision as to the financial remedy order it will make. 

Financial Remedy

The financial order made by the Court following a divorce or the ending of a civil partnership

Financial Remedy Order

The Court order which will set out in detail all the promises, orders and arrangements a party will be subject to at the end of any financial remedy application. This document can include trusts, maintenance, transfers of property and pensions or such other orders as the Court made choose to make. 

First Appointment

This is an initial Court hearing where the Court will decide what the next steps will be in terms of disclosure of information and evidence gathering before an FDR.

Form A

The application to the court asking for financial remedy order to be made

Form E

The document which sets out for the Court and the other party what someone’s financial position is. It will include detail of income, pensions, property they own or are entitled to and their needs and likely future expenditure. They are accompanied by the disclosure of all relevant documents to support what is said in the Form E itself.


Sometimes the Court will identify that some property subject to a financial remedy dispute is in fact owned by a third party (someone who is not getting divorced in the proceedings that the Court is dealing with). Or that there is property which a third party doesn’t own but they do have an interest in it e.g. where a someone has contributed money toward buying a house in the name of one, or both of the parties, to the financial remedy proceedings. The Court may make that third party an intervener in the financial remedy proceedings. This will enable the intervener to have say in what will happen to that property and influence the Court decision.

Lump sum

An order for the payment of a fixed sum of money (either as one payment or by instalments) form one party to another


The process by which two or more parties to a divorce or civil partnership can engage in discussion with a mediator with a view to agreeing their own solution to their financial issues

Mesher/Martin Order

These are orders which allow property (usually homes or land) to be placed in trust and only to be sold in the event of certain things occurring e.g. a party or person dying, remarrying or entering into a new civil partnership, the children of the parties reaching a certain age, etc. 

Non-Molestation Order

A non-molestation order is also often referred to as an ‘injunction’. If the court makes a non-molestation order it can require a person to:
a)    stop using violence against the Applicant;
b)    stop threatening use of violence against the Applicant;
c)    stop encouraging third parties to use or threaten violence against the Applicant;
d)    stop intimidation, harassment or pestering of the Applicant;
e)    stop encouraging third parties from intimidation, harassment or pestering of the Applicant;
f)    contact with the applicant – direct or indirect. 

If a non-molestation order is in force and the person restricted by the order breaches any of the terms it is a criminal offence. The alleged breaches can also be determined by the family court by way of contempt of court proceedings.

Occupation Order

An occupation order specifies who is allowed to live in the family home. It can require a person to leave the home and to not return until further court order. In addition, the court can restrict access by the person required to leave so that they are not to enter a specified area surrounding the family home.

Order for Sale

This is a financial remedy order which requires a particular piece of property (e.g. a home, some land, an antique, etc) to be sold and then the proceeds distributed to one party or between the two parties to the financial remedy proceedings. 

Paramountcy Principle

The court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. In other words, what is in the best interests of the child? The court will consider each child’s circumstances separately. The court can make a section 8 order in respect of a child until they are 16 years old.

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility enables a parent to make decisions that affect the child’s welfare for example: in respect of education or medical treatment.
A mother has parental responsibility for her child automatically. If the child’s parents are married at the time the child is born, the Father also automatically acquires parental responsibility. If the child’s parents are unmarried when the child is born, the Father can attain parental responsibility by:
a)    having his name registered on the child’s birth certificate if the child was born after 1st December 2003;
b)    parental responsibility agreement between the parents registered at court;
c)    court order; or
d)    residence order.

Pension Sharing/Splitting Order

An order giving one party a share of the other parties’ pension at the time a financial remedy order is made. 

Periodical Payments

Payments of maintenance for a child former spouse or former civil partner

Pre Nuptial and Post Nuptial Agreements

Agreements either before or after any marriage or civil partnership that sets out what the parties intend will happen to their finances and property in the event of a divorce.

Prohibited Steps Order

This type of order is one which restricts the actions of a parent in respect of a child when the other parent does not consent to the course of action proposed. Prohibited Steps orders are often made in emergency situations or so as to ensure the status quo continues whilst the court makes a decision.

Property Adjustment Order

A financial remedy order for the transfer of any form or property (e.g. house, car, land, etc) from one person’s name to another’s or an order which “settles” that property in a trust for someone’s (or some childs) benefit. 


The document which the Court will want to see at a First Appointment which sets out what questions one party will want another party to answer. The questionnaire will enable you to ask before any final hearing questions about someone’s finances and to ask them to produce further disclosure over and above what is in the Form E. The court will expect at the First Appointment to see a draft of each parties questionnaire to ensure the questions asked are appropriate and complete; and then the Court will set a date by which the replies to the questions will be provided. The Court will want the questionnaire to be as complete and as effective as possible. 


These are the detailed replies to any questionnaire and may involve setting out narrative answers or production of documents to answer the other parties questionnaire. The answers or replies will need to be accurate and complete otherwise the Court will feel that the party providing the replies has not been full and frank in their disclosure. 

Residence Order

A residence order formally recognizes where and with whom a child ordinarily lives. When a residence order is made, the person to whom the order is granted also attains parental responsibility if they do not already hold it for the child (see Parental Responsibility below).

The court may make a ‘sole residence order’ to one person, or it can make a ‘shared residence order’, which recognizes that the child ordinarily lives with both of their parents. However when the court makes a shared residence order it does not necessarily mean that the time spent by the child with each of his parents will be equal.

Whoever has a residence order is able to make the day-to-day decisions that affect the child’s life. However when a residence order is in force the child’s name cannot change nor can the child be taken out of the country for more than 1 month without the agreement of everyone who has parental responsibility or a court order.

Section 8 Orders

An Applicant can request that the court makes any of the following orders in respect of a child:
-    residence order,
-    contact order,
-    specific issue order and/or
-    prohibited steps order.

When making a decision, the court will have regard to the child’s welfare as it’s paramount consideration and will weigh each of the welfare checklist factors in the decision making process.

Special Guardianship

A special guardianship order gives someone who is not the child’s parent, parental responsibility for the child. Unlike an adoption order, a special guardianship order does not end the parental responsibility of others for a child, instead it allows the special guardian to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of others with parental responsibility.
A special guardianship order can last until a child turns 18 years old.

Specific Issue Order

The court may make a specific issue order when it is tasked with making a specific decision in respect of a child, for example: which school he/she should attend, which religious establishment the child should visit, or by what name the child should be known.


The formal evidence produced by an expert (e.g. surveyor or auctioneer) to value a particular property, land or chattel. The valuation can cover anything from the parties home, their investments, their stamp collection, their car, their antiques – anything the Court feels is relevant. Normally the valuation is done on “joint instructions” where the valuer is instructed by both parties together. The valuer will need to receive a letter of instruction telling the valuer what property to value and asking relevant questions for the valuer to respond to.

Welfare Checklist

When considering what is in the best interests of a child, the court will give consideration to each of the following factors:
the ascertainable wishes of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding) and his/her physical emotional and educational needs
the likely effect on him/her of any change in circumstances
his/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/hers which the court considers relevant
any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering
how capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs
the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question