Glossary of words used in Family Law


This is the American version of contact.


Where the hearing is halted to be restarted later. There must be a very important reason for an adjournment to be granted.


This is a statement that is witness and made under oath. It is liable to perjury if false.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

This is another word for mediation.


This is when an application is made against the decision of the lower court.

Appeal court

This is a court that hears appeals from the lower courts on points of law or plainly wrong judgements.


This is the person who started the case by filling in an application form with a statement.


This is usually a form that defines what you are asking from the court and why you are asking for it.

Balance of probabilities

This is when a judge makes a ruling of a finding of fact of an allegation in a family court. The judge decides whether the allegation is more likely to be true or more likely to be false but not on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt.

Barring Order

Where a judge makes a S.91(14) order to prevent one party or both from make further applications to the court. This should only be ordered when a litigant becomes vexatious, ie when he makes the same or similar applications several times or makes frivolous applications


This is a lawyer who presents the litigants case to the court or judge.


Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service is an organisation that assists the court in gathering evidence and making reports in family and children cases.

Case law

These are past reported cases on how previous cases and the facts of these cases have been decided upon. Decisions made in higher or same ranking courts are binding in all similar cases or parts of cases.

Case management

Where the following sets of court appearances, witnesses and evidence is time tabled.

Circuit judge

Is a judge who is below a high court judge and above a district judge.


This is an order of the court specifying when and where the non resident parent can see the child.


barristers or advocates.

County court

This is the main court at districts all over England and Wales.

Court order

This is the piece of paper that the judge ratifies at the end of a hearing and becomes the law for the case.

Cross examination

When a witness is asked questions by the other side.


This is the american version of residence.

Decree absolute

This is the legal document that ends the marriage.

Decree nisi

This is a declaration in the divorce court that a party is intending to divorce and there are no objections to the divorce. If the divorce is contested then a hearing has to decide whether to grant a decree nisi.

Direct examination

This precedes cross examination. Where one side asks questions of its witness. Eg the mother’s solicitor asks questions of the mother.

Directions Hearing

A court hearing where things are timetabled, such as future hearing dates, filing of statements ordered, reports to be prepared and psychological assessments, etc.

Examination in chief

This precedes cross examination. Where one side asks questions of its witness. Eg the mother’s solicitor asks questions of the mother.

Ex parte

Where a case is heard by only one side. Usually in emergency situations. These are usually followed a few days later with an inter partes hearing.

Expert evidence

Statement from an expert such as a psychologist, social worker or CAFCASS officer.

Family law

The area of law that deals with divorce, children, adoption and similar.

Family procedure rules(FPR)

These are the family version of the civil procedure rules. These are guidance on how litigation should happens and documents should be handled.

Finding of fact

Where a judge makes a decision on whether an allegation is true or false on the balance of probabilities.

Grounds for divorce

These are reasons given that allow for a divorce, which are one of the following: Adultery, Unreasonable behaviour, Desertion, Living apart for more than 2 years and both agree to divorce, Living apart for more than 5 years.

Guardian ad litem

This is a court appointed person that is appointed to represent the interests of the child. They become a third party after mother and father.

Hague convention

This is an agreement by countries that have signed up to the agreement to immediately return children that have been abducted between countries. Children are usually ordered to be returned immediately unless grave exceptions apply.


A session in court where one or more parties appear before a judge.

High court

It is a court at a higher level than the county court and deals with important cases that cannot be dealt with at county court level. The base of the high court is the royal court of justice but cases can be held in different courts around the country by a high court judge.

High court judge

A judge who sits in the high court and when he becomes a judge automatically becomes a Lord.

In camera

This means in secret where members of the public and press are excluded.

Interim order

A stop gap order that needs to be made before the final order because cases can carry on over many months.

Inter partes

Where all parties to a case are present to argue their side of the case.


This is when a judge makes a declaration in a case after hearing all the parties and any witnesses in a hearing.

Lay advocate

This is someone who has been granted rights of audience and can address the judge directly to present a litigants. case for him.

Litigant in person

This is someone who presents his case directly to the court without a solicitor or barrister.


The act of going to court to dispute a claim.

Litigation assistant

This is a lay person who assists a litigant in person with their case.


This is where both parties (mother and father) sit down and negotiate to determine how they should make arrangements for the children, finances, property and other possessions.

McKenzie friend

This is a person who assists someone who is representing himself in court.

Natural father

This is the genetic father of the child.

Non molestation order

Order to prevent one of the parents harrassing or assaulting the other parents like an injunction.

Notary public

This is an officer of the court who can witness statements made on oath.


National Youth Advocacy Service is an organisation that is there to provide legal assistance and advice to children in family law cases.


This is a statement of fact.

On notice application

This is when the other side is notified when a party makes an application to the court.


One of the sides in a case. In Family court – the father, mother and sometimes the children.

Parental responsibility

This the legal right and responsinility a parent has over a child.


The act of lying on oath to make a significant effect on a case.


This is a previously decided case that is binding on all future similar cases.

Prima facie

When an application is made it must appear to have merit on what is claimed.


Usually refers to a hearing before a judge.

Prohibited steps order

An order to limit a parents right (parental responsibility) to control a child’s life such as medical records or school.


A part time judge who is in training to become a circuit judge.

Reserved decision/ reserved judgment

A judge might not make an immediate decision at the end of a hearing but might take some time to review evidence and research law before making his decision.


This is an order of the court that determines who the child or children live with.


This is the person who is opposing the application or the person the application is made against.

Self represented litigant

same as a litigant in person.

Serve documents / papers

Where an application, court order or other court documents are delivered to the other party.


This is a lawyer who prepares the paperwork and case of the litigant.

Statute law – act of parliament

This is broadly based law passed by parliament. The courts have to follow statute law but parliament deliberately leaves somethings open to judge to make a range of judgements based on the circumstances of the case.


Where you make an oral statement to the court. However, written submissions can be made where you write down what you want to say in court and present it to the judge.

Supreme court

This is the highest court in the land taking over many of the cases that would have gone to the house of lords.


This is a word by word recording on paper of what is said in court during a hearing. All hearings are recorded. A specialist firm has to produce the transcript which has to be paid for.

Vexatious litigant

A litigant who repeatedly goes to court or makes frivolous applications.

Ward of court

Where a child comes under the jurisdiction of the court.

Without prejudice

Where statements made in the process of mediation before court are not to be used in evidence in any following court case.


A person who holds relevant information for the case.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: