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We know that going through a divorce can be a challenging and confusing time, and to add to the pressure, you are likely to encounter legal terminology and phrases that you do not understand. To help you through the divorce process, our experienced divorce solicitors have put together a glossary to help explain common phrases, words and legal jargon relating to family law and divorce.

Acknowledgment of service

A form that is sent out by the court with the divorce petition/matrimonial order application, which the respondent must sign and return to the court to confirm that they have received the petition/matrimonial order application and state whether they agree to the divorce.


The process in which an individual asks a higher court to change the decision of a lower one.


The name given to a person applying to court for an order.


An arbitrator is a third party who reviews the evidence in the case and provides a decision that is legally binding and enforceable in the courts.


Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. A Cafcass officer assists the court with any matters relating to children and, in some cases, they may be asked to prepare a report for the court on what action would be in the best interests of the children.

Child maintenance

An amount of money that a parent who is not living with their child must pay to the other parent to support the child.


A legal term that refers to personal effects, such as house contents or personal possessions.

Child arrangements order

This order regulates arrangements relating to with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact. See our Child Arrangements Orders Explained article to find out more.

 Clean break

A clean break is an order of the court which ends the financial ties between you and your ex-partner.

 Consent order

A legally binding document issued by a court that details how your joint assets, such as proport, investments, savings and pensions will be divided.

 Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

Previously known as the Child Support Agency, CMS ensures living apart from their children contribute financially by paying child maintenance.

Decree absolute

The final order of the court that terminates the marriage.

Decree nisi

The decree nisi is a document that states that the court is satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Six weeks and one day after decree nisi has been made, you can apply to the court to make decree nisi absolute.


This is now called matrimonial order proceedings. This is the process which leads to the termination of a marriage. There are two orders: decree nisi and decree absolute. Read our article about each step in the divorce process.

Final hearing

The final hearing is a formality whereby the judge will listen to both parties and make a final binding court order as a result.

Financial consent orders

A financial consent order is a legal document that confirms your financial agreement to the court, regarding how any of your shared assets will be divided upon divorce and any ongoing maintenance. See our Solicitor’s Guide to Financial Consent Orders to find out more.

Financial remedy application

Previously known as ancillary relief, this is the application to the court for financial orders following a divorce.


An order of the court preventing or requiring action, which is usually made in an emergency.

Judicial separation

A formal separation sanctioned by the court, which allows the court to make orders regarding money and property without terminating the marriage.


A regular payment of money by one spouse to another under a court order or following an agreement.

Matrimonial order application

Previously known as a divorce petition, this document starts the divorce proceedings.


The process through which mediators try to help a couple reach agreements without having to attend court.

 Mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM)

Before court proceedings can be issued, you will be required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). This shows you have explored the option of mediation before you decide that you want to start court proceedings.


An impartial third party who assists the parties to reach a negotiated settlement.

 Occupation order

An order made by the courts to occupation orders are to declare or restrict rights to occupy the matrimonial home A person can be excluded from the family home for a set period of time.


An order is a direction by the court that is legally binding and enforceable.


A ‘pre-nup’ is a formal contract in which you set out your intentions as to how your finances should be divided in the event you separate from your spouse.

 Property adjustment / transfer order

The court’s power to change the ownership of an asset, and typically relates to property.


This describes where and with whom a child lives on specific days.


Our team have put their decades of experience together to answer some of the most frequently asked questions they get around divorce and relationship matters. Click the links to find out more.

Ward Hadaway Divorce Solicitors

If you are going through a divorce, our experienced divorce solicitors can help you through each step of the process. Get in touch today to find out more about our divorce services.

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Liz Bottrill

Partner | Family & Matrimonial

+44 (0) 330 137 3225

+44 (0)784 177 7157

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Christine Barker

Partner | Family & Matrimonial, Manchester

+44 (0) 330 137 3226

+44 (0) 783 143 0922

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Andrea Dyer

Partner | Family & Matrimonial, Leeds

+44 (0) 330 137 3216

+44 (0)793 919 1880

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Gemma Iceton

Partner | Family & Matrimonial

+44 (0) 330 137 3217

+44 (0) 793 604 2633

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Rachel Ward

Partner | Family & Matrimonial

+44 (0)330 137 3220

+44 (0)775 331 9768

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David Lister

Partner | Family & Matrimonial

+44 (0) 330 137 3213

+44 (0) 779 100 1347

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