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Legal Terminology - Glossary M - Z

Is short for:

Glossary of legal terms; M - Z

Magistrate: officer of the court who tries simpler cases.

Maintenance: money paid by a spouse for the financial support of the other or by a parent for the support of a child.

Maintenance Order: order that one party should pay monies for the maintenance of another.

Maintenance Pending Suit: court-ordered amount of interim spousal maintenance paid until the conclusion of financial proceedings.

Mareva Injunction: court order which freezes a party’s assets and prevents their removal from the jurisdiction.

Martin Order: rare order used to postpone the sale of the marital home.

McKenzie Friend: lay advisor permitted to provide reasonable assistance to a litigant-in-person.

Mediation: alternative dispute resolution attempted in an effort to prevent the case reaching court.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM): compulsory meeting an applicant must attend to determine whether mediation is appropriate in his particular case.

Merit: inherent quality of a case which justifies bringing it to court.

Mesher Order: order preventing the sale of the matrimonial home and allowing a parent to remain in residence until a triggering event.

Mirror Order: order which must be obtained from a foreign jurisdiction before the English or Welsh Court will allow a parent to remove their child to that jurisdiction.

Misdirection: error made by a judge either in relation to the law or to the facts of a case.

Motion Roll Hearing: in Scotland, an interim hearing.


National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS): a charity which can become involved in family cases in the role of children’s guardians as an alternative to CAFCASS.


Needs, Wishes & Feelings: a report conducted by CAFCASS in order to determine the child’s ‘ascertainable wishes and feelings’ and his ‘physical, emotional and educational needs’.

Neglect: persistent failure to meet a child’s physical or emotional needs, resulting in impairment to health or development.

Neutral Citation: system of classifying cases introduced in 2001 which consists of the name of the case and the year and court in which it was heard.

No-Delay Principle: principle in Section 1(2) of the Children Act that delay in the court process be kept to a minimum.

No-Fault Divorce: removal from divorce legislation of the long-standing requirement that the petitioner prove the respondent to be at fault in some way.

No Further Action (NFA): formula used by the police when there is insufficient evidence to justify charging or cautioning a suspect.

Non-Accidental: injury to a child which cannot be explained as accidental.

Non-Cohabitation: in Scotland the condition of living separately for a specified period to qualify for divorce.

Non-Molestation Order (NMO or “Non-Mol”): injunctive order, preventing the respondent engaging in behaviour which the applicant finds distressing.

Non-Resident Parent (NRP): purely financial term used to describe the parent with liability for paying child support.

No-Order Principle: principle that the Court should not make any order in respect of a child unless doing so is better for the child than making no order at all.

North Yorkshire Declaration: the early decision to rule out the child’s biological parents as suitable carers.

Notice of Proceedings: form on which the Court informs the respondent of the application or petition.

Nullity: state of a marriage rendered null by a court ruling.


Obiter (Latin: short for obiter dicta, “things said in passing”): asides, illustrations, analogies, individual opinions and references to prior decisions within a judgment.

Obtemper: to comply with (a court order).

Occupation Order: injunctive order which regulates the occupation of a property in some way.

Official Copy: copy of an official document supplied and marked as such by the office which issued the original.

Official Solicitor: lawyer invited to act on behalf of a litigant when he lacks the mental capacity to represent himself.

Opinion: in the Scots courts, a judgment.

Options Hearing: in Scotland, the first hearing in divorce, financial and children’s proceedings.

Order: official proclamation issued by a court.

Ordinary Procedure: one of the two procedures for divorce in the Scots jurisdiction.

Ordinary Residence: out-dated concept referring to a person’s abode in a particular place or country.

Ors: abbreviation of “others”.

Orse: abbreviation of “otherwise”.

Out-of-Time: when the time limit for completing a particular legal procedure is exceeded.

Overriding Objective: the requirement that the Court deals with a case ‘justly, having regard to any welfare issues involved’.


Paralegal: one of a wide range of personnel who works in a legal environment but is not as widely qualified as a solicitor or legal executive.

Parental Alienation: conscious or unconscious behaviour by one parent which distances a child from the other.

Parental Responsibility (PR): “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to a child and his property”.

Parental Responsibility Agreement: agreement made between the parents of a child when one parent is not on the birth certificate that he (or she) should have parental responsibility.

Parental Responsibility Order (PRO): order that a father should be granted parental responsibility for the child concerned where there is no agreement with the mother.

Parenting Agreement: detailed proposal for the day-to-day shared parenting of a couple’s children after divorce or separation.

Parenting Plan: a proposal for the parenting of a child after separation which will enable parents to produce a parenting agreement.

Part-Heard: case in which a hearing is adjourned until another day because time has run out.

Party Litigant: in Scotland, a litigant who represents himself without a solicitor or barrister.

Paternity Fraud: fraudulent identification by a mother of a particular man as the father of her child.

Penal Notice: notice attached to the terms of an order which enables punishment to be imposed on the party who disregards it.

Pension Attachment Order: requires a spouse to pay part of his pension to the other party.

Pension Earmarking: process for arranging that, when a pension comes to be paid, a proportion is paid to the other party.

Pension Offsetting: act of off-setting the value of a pension against some other shared asset such as the marital home.

Pension Sharing Order (PSO): orders the pension to be divided and allows a specified portion to be transferred to the other spouse.

Per Incuriam (Latin: “through lack of care”): order made without proper consideration of the appropriate legislation or precedents.

Perjury: wilfully making a statement in court while under oath which the individual knows to be false or does not believe to be true.

Person with Care (PWC):  person in receipt of child support for a child.

Petition: form on which a spouse petitions for a divorce in England and Wales.

Petitioner: party who petitions for a divorce.

Placement Order: court order authorising a local authority to place a child for adoption.

Pleas-in-Law: in Scotland the third part of an application, giving the legal argument in support of the application.

Position Statement: document in which a litigant sets out his case to the Court in both children’s and financial proceedings.

Practice Direction: instructions issued to judges to achieve conformity and uniformity in court practice.

Prayer: part of a divorce petition in which the petitioner states what order she wants the Court to make.

Pre-Action Protocol: statements of best practice about pre-action conduct which have been approved by the President of the Family Division and which are annexed to a practice direction.

Precedent: judicial decision which establishes a legal principle binding on equal or lower courts in the same jurisdiction and may be persuasive in other jurisdictions.

Pre-Marital or Pre-Nuptial Agreement: written statement agreed by a couple before marriage, setting out the division of financial assets and other arrangements in the event of divorce.

President: most senior judge in the Family Division of the High Court.

Primary Carer: the disputed doctrine that one parent should make all decisions concerning the child after separation.

Privacy: rules which prevent access to family hearings by members of the public, the reporting of cases and the disclosure of documents.

Private Family Law: cases brought by private individuals usually following divorce or parents’ separation, concerning disputes over finances or matters relating to parenting.

Privilege: a party’s right in certain protected situations to refuse to disclose or produce a document or to answer a question of some special interest recognised by law.

Pro Bono (Latin: short for pro bono publico, meaning “for the public good”): professional legal work undertaken voluntarily and without payment.

Proceedings: legal action taking place in a court.

Process Server: a person who specialises in serving legal documents on respondents.

Prohibited Steps Order (PSO): an order preventing a parent from exercising some specified aspect of his parental responsibility.

Proof Hearing: in Scotland a hearing in which the parties give oral evidence and are subject to cross examination in open court.

Property Adjustment Order: spousal maintenance order which adjusts the share in property – usually a house.

Proportionality: the principle that any order made must be proportionate to the harm the child has suffered or is likely to suffer.

Public Access Barrister: barrister who will accept instruction directly from a litigant and not through a solicitor.

Public Family Law: cases brought by local authorities concerning the protection of children from harm.

Pursuer: in Scotland, the party who initiates litigation.


Queen’s Proctor: official who may intervene in petitions for divorce or nullity and, if appropriate, prevent a decree nisi from becoming absolute.

Questionnaire: document produced by a divorce respondent on which he presents any queries he may have regarding discrepancies and perceived errors.


Ratio (Latin: short for rationes decidendi, meaning ‘the rationale for the decision’) that part of a judgment which contains the judge’s reasoning and which may set a precedent.

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO): process by which maintenance orders issued in one jurisdiction may be registered and enforced in another.

Recital: item of background information placed at the top of an order which does not constitute part of the order itself.

Recorder: solicitor or barrister who sits part-time as a judge.

Recovery Order: court order made to parents, police or social services to locate a child and return him to those with parental responsibility.

Recuse: to disqualify a judge from presiding over a case on the grounds of prejudice or personal involvement.

Relocation: permanent removal of a child by a parent from one location to another.

Reserve: for a judge to assign a case to himself so that no other judge may hear it.  Alternatively, to hand down a judgment at a later date rather than deliver it on the day.

Reserved Legal Activity: one of six legal activities reserved to authorised persons and which it is a criminal offence for a non-authorised person to perform.

Residence: the status of a parent with whom a child lives; replaced “custody” in 1989, but now obsolete since 2014.

Residual Jurisdiction: authority over a case which a court can assume if a party does not have his habitual residence in a member state and no member state has jurisdiction.

Res Judicata (Latin: ‘a matter judged’): a matter the Court has already judged and which cannot be judged again.

Respondent: party to whom the order applied for will apply.

Revised Family Law Programme: scheme of case management introduced in April 2010 and designed to reduce demand for and pressure on CAFCASS and the family justice system and to expedite the progress of cases through the system.

Right of Audience: the right to directly address the Court, make oral submissions or examine witnesses.

Risk Assessment: assessment of the risk of the child suffering the harm that is suspected.

Rose Agreement: heads of agreement which has not yet been worked up into an order but which is approved by the judge and is therefore binding on the parties.


Safeguarding Letter: letter produced to the Court by CAFCASS at the FHDRA to identify safety issues relating to the child.  Formerly known as a Schedule 2 Letter.

Schedule of Deficiencies: list of discrepancies and missing information provided during ancillary relief proceedings.

Scott Schedule: commonly used document set out as a table in which the respondent addresses allegations made.

Seal: mark placed on a document by the court to indicate that the court has issued it.

Sears Tooth Agreement: deed between litigant and solicitor that assigns all or part of a capital settlement to the solicitor to cover legal fees.

Section 7 Report: report ordered by the Court from CAFCASS in order to determine the welfare issues of a case.

Section 8 Order: a court order regulating parental responsibility; it may be for (or to vary) Prohibited Steps, Specific Issues or Child Arrangements.

Section 11 Order: in Scotland, the equivalent of an English/Welsh Section 8 Order; it may be for Residence, Contact, Specific Issues or an Interdict similar to a Prohibited Steps Order.

Section 17 Assessment: initial assessment undertaken by social services when parents request their involvement.

Section 20 Agreement: voluntary agreement made by parents that a child should be taken into local authority accommodation.

Section 37 Report: local authority investigation into a child’s welfare ordered by the judge as part of ongoing family proceedings.

Section 47 Report: report undertaken by local authority into a child’s welfare to determine whether safeguarding action should be taken.

Section 91(14) Order: order prohibiting the party to whom it applies from making further applications, or applications of a particular kind, for the duration of the order without leave of the Court.

Section 97 Prohibition: prohibition preventing the identification of children in proceedings.

Seek & Locate Order: order requiring a named party to disclose the whereabouts of a child.

Segal Order: form of interim order for spousal maintenance made before a Child Maintenance Service (CMS) assessment which is later reduced by the amount assessed.

Seised: having possession of; a court is “seised” of a case when it has sufficient evidence to pass judgement.

Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP): awareness programme to which a court will direct parents when a CAFCASS officer has recommended accordingly.

Separation: termination of cohabitation by a husband and wife as the basis of divorce.

Service: action of bringing a document to someone’s attention according to the rules of court.

Set Aside: to rescind, cancel, repeal or revoke a judgment or order.

Settled: of a child who is both physically integrated into his new community and environment, and emotionally and psychologically secure and stable.

Shared Parenting: antithesis and rejection of the sole-maternal-custody model of post-separation parenting.

Sharia: “The Way” – an Islamic system of law derived from religious precepts.

Sheriff Court: in Scotland, the lower level of court in the Scots judicatory.

Significant Harm: harm that “must be something unusual; at least something more than the commonplace human failure or inadequacy” it can also arise from the cumulative effect of several minor harms.

Sine Die: (Latin: “without a day”) where a case is adjourned indefinitely without a date set to continue the hearing.

Skeleton Argument: device used to provide an outline structure enabling the presentation of a case in court.

Slip Rule: rule which allows clerical mistakes and accidental omissions in judgments and orders to be corrected by the judge.

Solicitor: lawyer who practices litigation but not advocacy.

Specific Issues Order (SIO): order to determine a specific question in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

Split Hearing: hearing in two parts: in the first the Court makes a finding-of-fact, and in the second a decision based upon that finding.

Spousal Maintenance: monies paid after a divorce by one spouse for the financial support of the other.

Stare Decisis: (Latin: short for Stare decisis et non quieta movere, meaning; “to stand by decisions and not disturb settled matters”) the principle which requires judges to abide by the precedent set in previous cases.

Statement of Arrangements: old part of the divorce petition which is no longer used but still features on some forms issued by the courts.

Statement of Case: application, or the response to it, by which a litigant sets out his case.

Statement of Means: form on which a party records his financial situation, including capital, income and outgoings, etc.

Statement of Service: form which the applicant completes and returns to the court to confirm the application has been served on the respondent.

Statement of Truth: brief, signed declaration at the foot of a document that the writer believes the facts contained within it to be true.

Status Quo (Latin: short for in statu quo res erant ante bellum, meaning ‘in the state in which things were before the war’) the established state of affairs.

Statutory Law: body of law which has been established by Acts of Parliament.

Stay: halt on proceedings, other than those allowed under the terms of the stay.

Strike Out: Court’s refusal to take a case because it has no hope of success.  Alternatively, order of a court to delete written material so that it may no longer be relied upon.

Sub Nomine: (Latin: “under the name of”; usually abbreviated to sub nom) indicating that litigation commenced under one name and continued under another.

Subpoena: (Latin: ‘under penalty’) writ from the Court requiring a party or witness to attend.

Substantive Law: written, statutory law.

Summons: document served on a person involved in proceedings, either giving them notice that legal proceedings have been commenced against them or requesting their attendance as a witness.

Supervised Contact: contact conducted under supervision by contact centre staff with parent and child are isolated from other families.

Supervision Order: order by which a child considered to be at risk remains in his home but under the supervision of social services or CAFCASS.

Supported Contact: contact conducted under supervision by contact centre staff with the parent and child in the same room as other families.

Suspended Transfer Order: threat made by the Court that it will transfer residence if the resident parent’s behaviour does not change.


Taking a Case Out of the List: removal of a hearing from that day’s schedule.

Tariff: level of contact ordered by the Court.

Therapeutic Jurisprudence: model of jurisprudence in which the traditional role of a court is discarded and the judge’s role is not to uphold justice and the rule of law but to secure the best therapeutic outcome for the client.

Threshold: point at which the neglect or ill-treatment of a child justifies the mandatory intervention of the state.

Tipstaff: enforcement officer of the high court.

Tomlin Order: form of consent order designed to stay further action, but which is enforceable by either party if the other defaults.

Transcript: official verbatim text version of a judgment.

Transfer of Proceedings: change of proceedings from one court to another

Transfer of Residence: Child Arrangements Order which reverses the roles of the resident and non-resident parents.

Turnbull Direction: a judge’s caveat that an eye-witness’s identification of an individual may not always be reliable and will depend on a number of variables.


Ultra Vires (Latin: “beyond the powers”): decision made beyond the jurisdiction of the Court.

Unbundling: provision of legal services in which the traditional full service is broken down into “discrete acts of legal assistance”.

Undertaking: solemn written promise made to the Court that a party will do or not do a specified act.

Unilateral Divorce: decision to end a marriage made by one spouse only and without reference to the other.

Unimpeachable: signifies a party who cannot be doubted, questioned or criticised.

Unmeritorious: without merit; especially of unmarried fathers, to justify the denial of automatic Parental Responsibility; also used of an application deemed to be without prospect of success.

Unreasonable Behaviour: any behaviour by the respondent to a divorce which in the eyes of the petitioner makes it unreasonable to expect him or her to remain married.


Variation: further application by a party to have an existing order altered in some way.

Vexatious Litigant: one who brings litigation without merit merely to vex or harass the respondent.

Visiting Contact: contact in which the child is able to visit the non-resident parent during the day but does not stay overnight.

Voice of the Child: degree to which the wishes and feelings of the child are represented to the Court and influence its decision.

Voidable Marriage: marriage which can be voided because one of the parties was married against their will or under false pretences.

Void Marriage: marriage in which the parties were not eligible to marry in the first place.


Warning Notice: notice attached to all Child Arrangements Orders that breach of the order will result in a range of sanctions.

Wasted Costs Order: order that a litigant’s costs be paid by their legal representative.

Welfare Principle: over-ruling principle of the Children Act 1989 that in any proceedings involving a child's upbringing or property the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.

Welfare Checklist: the matters to be considered when a court determines any question relating to a child's upbringing or property.

Welfare Officer: CAFCASS officer who has been asked to produce a welfare report.

Welfare Report: Section 7 Report.

Without Notice: also referred to as an application not on notice, an application made without giving the other side notice or the opportunity to oppose.

Without Prejudice: protective wording on an offer of settlement to ensure that if refused it will not be shown to the Court and prejudice proceedings.

Witness: person who gives evidence by witness statement to support the argument of a party or who attends court to speak on their behalf.

Writ: court’s written command that someone act or refrain from acting in a particular way.

Wrongful Removal: removal of a child from the jurisdiction without legal authority or observation of correct legal process.



Xydhias Agreement: financial agreement negotiated between spouses which has not yet been drawn up into an order but which may nevertheless prove binding.