If you're in the process of separating or divorcing from your child's other parent, this is a list of some of the terms you might come across as you negotiate your new situation. If we've missed any, please email us.

A to Z

Access / Contact
Both these words refer to the time a child spends visiting or staying with their non-resident parent. Contact can also include contact by letter, phone etc, as well as in person.

A statement in writing, sworn before someone qualified to witness oaths (such as a solicitor).

Ancillary Relief
Any orders from the court relating to payments that will be made following or during the divorce or separation, such as maintenance payments.

Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service)
An independent government organisation that looks after the interests of any children involved in family court proceedings.

Child maintenance/support
Regular payments, usually made to the parent whom the child lives with by their other parent, to support the child or children's upbringing. This includes individual costs (food, clothes) and household costs (such as heating and electricity) which impact on the child's welfare.

Clean break
When a divorce finalises all financial matters between the two parties, meaning no ongoing or new payments will be made after the divorce, regardless of any change in circumstances. This cannot take place if children are involved because child support must be paid.

Cohabitees, Cohabitation agreement
People who are living together but not married. The agreement sets out arrangements for their property and finances if the relationship breaks up.

Contact, Contact centre
See Access. A Contact centre is somewhere neutral where the child and parent can meet.

Decree Absolute
The final court order dissolving a marriage.

Decree Nisi
The penultimate order from a court confirming that a divorce should be granted unless reason is shown why it should not within a fixed time (usually six weeks). After this it becomes Decree Absolute.

Both parties must provide all information that relates to any finances. If information is false or incomplete, the court order may be deemed invalid.

The ending of a civil partnership.

Judicial separation
A separation issued by the court for one of the same five reasons as a divorce, either where the couple wish to remain legally married (eg for religious reasons) or when they were never married. The court sets out arrangements as in divorce for financial and property matters and child care and contact.

Maintenance or Spousal support (Alimony)
Payments made to either the husband or wife by the other partner to assist living.

Where issues arise during a divorce or separation, for example over finances or children, meetings can be organised to discuss arrangements and a neutral mediator will assist the two parties in finding a way forward.

Parental Responsibility
This term encompasses all rights, duties, powers and responsibilities a parent or legal carer has for a child. It allows the parent to make important decisions concerning the child's upbringing, such as which school they should go to, where they should live and religious choices.

The mother has this automatically and the father has it if he is married to the mother or if he was present when the child's birth was registered. Otherwise a court order is needed to agree Parental Responsibility for the father or for any carer where the court has ordered the child should live with them.

Parenting Plan
This sets out the day-to-day arrangements for bringing up a child, for example who will take them to school or activities.

The written document that requests the court to dissolve a marriage.

The person who initiates the legal proceedings by applying for (filing a petition for) the separation or divorce. The other person becomes the Respondent.

When the respondent puts forward a different reason for the divorce than that put forward by the initial petitioner.

Residence, Residence order
Where the child or children will live and with whom. The Residence order sets out these living arrangements.

Shared care
When a child or children spend time living with both parents, though not necessarily in equal measure. A shared residence order can be made to set out the arrangements for this.

Statement of Arrangements
A form which sets out the arrangements for a child or children after the divorce.

Statement of Information
A document that summarises both parties' finances.

The welfare checklist
Things a court must consider when making decisions that relate to any children involved in the divorce or separation. The child's best interests will always be put first.

Last updated: about 3 years ago