Glossary of Common Divorce Terms


Getting divorced or separating can be confusing, not least because of the legal jargon used throughout the process. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a useful guide to some of the most commonly used terms, explained in an easy-to-understand format.


Glossary of Common Divorce Terminology


Acknowledgement of Service

This is a form you’ll receive from the court. You’ll need to complete it to acknowledge that you’ve received the divorce papers, and to let the court know whether the divorce will be defended or not.



This is a statement, in writing, that’s signed under oath. It’s a legally binding document.



This term refers to payments that must be made to support a spouse (or ex-spouse) during separation or after the divorce. Payments may be for your spouse or children



In court, you have the right to appeal if you’re the losing party. This is an official request for a higher court to review the case.


Child support

This is money that must be paid by the non-custodial parent (i.e. the parent that the child is not living with) to the custodial parent (the parent living with the child).


Child Maintenance Service

This agency helps spouses to agree on child maintenance payments.  They used to be called The Child Support Agency.



If one of the parties involved is accused of adultery, the term ‘co-respondent’ refers to the individual that they were alleged to have been involved with (if this is the reason for the divorce or separation).


Decree absolute

This is the court’s final order, which officially dissolves the marriage.


Decree nisi

This is a provisional order, asserting that the reason(s) for divorce have been properly established.



During the process, both parties may be asked to disclose certain financial details, such as income, assets and liabilities. Sometimes this is a mandatory requirement (a court order), otherwise it’s voluntary.



This is the net value of the property, after paying off the mortgage or other debts associated with it.


First directions appointment (FDA)

This is the first court appointment (for financial proceedings) and is largely centred on ‘housekeeping’. During the FDA, the court decides what information is required to ensure the case progresses smoothly.


Financial dispute resolution (FDR)

This is the second court appointment for financial proceedings and provides the opportunity for both spouses to negotiate the terms with the assistance of the Court.


Financial settlement

This is an agreement made with regards the financial arrangement between spouses after a divorce.



An injunction is a court order, preventing one of the involved parties from doing something (for example, acting abusively or disposing assets).


Judicial separation

This is a court sanction, whereby you remain married but are separated. This means you can apply to the court regarding financial matters if you’re unable to come to an agreement.


Lump sum order

A lump sum order means that a spouse must pay an agreed amount of money to the other spouse; either in a single payment or in instalments.



The process of mediation involves a trained professional mediator, who works with the involved parties to come to agreements regarding financial or family matters (e.g. child visitation rights).


Non-molestation order

This court order prevents one spouse from threatening, violating, harassing or intimidating the other spouse, and can also be used to protect children.



Once you take the oath in court, you’re under legal obligation to tell the truth.



This is a directive given by the court which is a legal requirement.



The document which commences the divorce process.



The person who commences a divorce.


Pre- or post-nuptial agreement

This is a contract that can be agreed and signed at any point before or after the marriage. It can have a major impact on the divorce process.


Prohibited steps order

This court order prevents the spouse from doing something with their child; for example, taking them out of the country.


Reasons for a divorce

These are the five reasons provided for the court proceedings, identifying why the marriage has broken down.



The respondent is the person who is given the application to go to court.


Separation agreement

This lays out the arrangement between a couple after separation.


Special procedure

Despite the name, this is actually the most common procedure for divorce cases. If the divorce is undefended, the decree nisi and decree absolute can be issued, and there is no need for either of the involved parties to appear in court.



This is a promise, which is either given to the other spouse or the court. Once it has been made in court, it is the same as a court order; and failure to keep to the undertaking will place the spouse in contempt of court.


Unreasonable behaviour

This can be one of the five reasons for getting divorce. Details of the behaviour must be laid out in the divorce petition.


Without prejudice

Any documents that are marked as ‘without prejudice’ cannot be shown to the court.

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