Jargon Buster

A list of commonly used legal terms and their meanings

  1. A

    Access
    See contact
    Acknowledgement of Service form
    The form is sent by the court to a Respondent (and Co-respondent if any) with the divorce petition. The form is completed by the Respondent (and Co-Respondent) to confirm that they have received the Petition and whether they intend to defend it.
    Adultery
    This is one of the 'facts' used to establish that a marriage has 'irretrevably broken down' which is the 'ground' or reason for divorce. It involves sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex, who is not your husband or wife. This is not available for civil partnership dissolutions.
    Adverse costs order
    An order made by the court for one party to pay the costs of legal proceedings, in full or in part, to the other party.
    Affidavit
    This is a document which is sworn on oath or affirmed to be true by the person making it.
    After the Event Insurance (ATE)
    An insurance policy taken out after an event has occurred to provide protection from having to pay the legal costs of the other party that may be awarded if the claim is unsuccessful.
    Allegation
    A statement or assertion that someone has done or has failed to do something which has had an impact on the person making the allegation.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
    Alternatives to court litigation, such as arbitration, mediation, or mini-trials. These procedures are usually less costly and can be dealt with more quickly than litigation.
    Ancillary relief
    Another term for the financial remedies in, for example, divorce or civil partnership proceedings
    Answer
    This is the formal defence to a petition for divorce, civil partnership dissolution or legal separation.
    Application for Financial Remedy
    A general term for the possible financial orders that a court can make in addition to a petition for divorce civil partnership dissolution or legal separation.
    Arbitration
    A process by which a dispute is submitted to a neutral third party by parties who agree in advance that they will comply with the decision.
    Attorneys
    Individuals named by you to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.
  2. B

    A document which records whether a person is, has been or soon will be made bankrupt.
    Barrister
    A lawyer who provides representation and specialist legal advice in writing or in person before the courts.
    Before the Event Insurance (BTE)
    An insurance policy taken out to cover legal costs in the event that any person covered under the policy experiences an accident or incident of the type insured against. Often BTE is attached to other insurance policies, such as motor, household contents and/or buildings insurance and credit card policies.
    Burden of Proof
    The obligation of proving facts. In general, the burden lies on the person pursuing a case to prove the facts. There are different levels, or (standards) of proof in criminal and civil cases in England and Wales.
  3. C

    CAFCASS
    The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service for England and Wales (CAFCASS Cymru). You will meet a CAFCASS officer if you apply to the court for any order affecting your child, for example Contact or Residence.
    Causation
    The establishment of a direct link between the act or failure to act which resulted in the injury, loss or damage claimed.
    Certificate Provider
    Someone you choose to confirm that you understand the Lasting Power of Attorney and are not being pressurised into making it.
    Charge
    A charge can be registered against the title of a property in the same way as a mortgage. It gives the person having the benefit of the charge security, as an intending buyer will wish to ensure that it is removed when he or she purchases the property.
    Child Abduction
    The illegal removal of a child from his or her home, often from one country to another. A removal may be illegal even if it is by a parent who lives with the child, if someone with the right to help make decisions about the child, such as the other parent has not consented.
    Child of the family
    A child who is under 16 or between 16 and 18 if in full-time education or training. A disabled and dependant child of any age is treated as a child of the family.
    Civil Partnership
    Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Civil partners are treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters.
    Civil Partnership Dissolution
    This is the equivalent to a divorce for a married couple. The same ground exists as for divorce, namely that the relationship has “irretrievably broken down”. See Grounds.
    Claim Form
    The name given to a formal court document which is used to commence proceedings.
    Claim Notification Form
    ('CNF'). A document to be completed by the person bringing a claim (Claimant) to provide details of their claim. The document is usually sent electronically, via a "portal", to the other party (Defendant) who should then respond by completing the Defendant's section of the CNF.
    Claimant
    The name given to the party making a claim, usually in the court process. (Previous term = Plaintiff).
    Clean break
    This is an order made by a court stating that all current and future claims arising between parties in financial proceedings in divorce or civil partnership dissolution are dismissed.
    Cohabitation
    This is used to describe two parties who are living together who have not entered a formal arrangement such as marriage or civil partnership.
    Collaborative Law
    In the collaborative law process, each person appoints their own lawyer who has been trained in collaborative law. The couple and their respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face. Each of them has their own lawyer at their side throughout the process. The couple and their lawyers sign an agreement that commits them to trying to resolve issues without going to court and prevents them from representing the couple in court if the collaborative process breaks down. That means all are absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.
    Collective Conditional Fee Agreement
    A Conditional Fee Agreement (see below) entered into on behalf of those bringing group claims.
    Compensation
    Money paid by the responsible party to the injured party to make amends for the injury, loss or damage. The aim is to put the Claimant in the position he/she would have been had the accident /event not occurred.
    Conditional Fee Agreement
    Also sometimes known as a "No Win, No Fee" agreement. A formal written funding agreement between a solicitor and client meaning that the client's own solicitors' costs are not payable (or reduced) if the client's claim is not successful. If the client's claim is successful then costs are usually recovered from the opponent or their insurers.
    An order made by a court in terms which are agreed by both parties.
    Contact
    (previously known as Access). The arrangement for the child or children to visit or stay with the parent who no longer lives with them. Indirect contact means the exchange of letters, telephone calls or presents. Contact orders can also be made in favour of people other than parents such as grandparents.
    Contributory Negligence
    The term used to describe the situation where a person bringing a claim may have caused or contributed to the injury, loss or damage done. If compensation is payable, the amount of money may be reduced.
    Co-respondent
    The person with whom your spouse (the respondent) has committed adultery. It is no longer a requirement for the person to be named.
    Costs
    The charges incurred by a person instructing a lawyer to act for them.
    Counsel
    Another term for a Barrister. If there are proceedings in court, a Barrister may be required to represent you. Also, Barrister’s may be asked to give their opinion – for example in relation to what a party is likely to receive in respect of a financial application. This could help parties negotiate a suitable settlement without going to court.
    Counterclaim
    A claim brought by a Defendant against a Claimant, usually set out in a document sent to the court ,in response to a claim being pursued by a Claimant. The Counterclaim sets out which allegations contained in the claim the Defendant accepts or disputes and gives details of the claim that the Defendant wishes to pursue against the Claimant.
    County Court
    A court which deals with civil cases such as disputes over unpaid debts and negligence claims. It does not deal with criminal cases.
    Court of Appeal
    A court which hears appeals from the decisions of other courts.
    Court of Protection
    Court which makes decisions for those who have lost capacity and do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
    CPR
    Civil Procedure Rules 1998 – the rules are a procedural code which govern the practice and procedure in the civil courts in England and Wales.
    Cross Examine
    To question a witness (usually on behalf of an opponent) or another party during a court hearing.
    Cross-petition
    This is when the Respondent argues different grounds for the divorce from those of the Petitioner.
    Crown
    Another term for the government. If a person dies without making a Will and has no next of kin, ultimately the Crown will receive the whole estate.
    Custody
    The old term for Residence. See Residence.
  4. D

    Damages
    A sum of money claimed or awarded by way of compensation for injury, loss or damage experienced.
    Decree Absolute
    This is the final court order in a petition for divorce bringing the marriage to an end.
    Decree Nisi
    This is the conditional order which confirms that you are entitled to apply for the final divorce order, the decree absolute.
    Deed poll
    A deed poll is an expression often used to describe a Change of Name Deed. It is evidence of the person's intention to be known by a new name.
    Defence
    A written statement (pleading) by a Defendant setting out the facts that the Defendant will seek to rely on to dispute the claim being made by a Claimant.
    Defendant
    A person, company or other legal entity defending a court action which is being taken against them.
    Directions for trial
    The stage in the divorce proceedings when the judge considers the petition and the affidavit in support of the petition. The Judge can ask for further information to be provided before a decree nisi is pronounced.
    Disbursement
    A sum paid by a solicitor on behalf of a client.
    Disclosure
    This is the process of providing full and frank financial details about a person’s capital, income, assets and liabilities. This is either done voluntarily, or the court can order it.
    Disclosure
    The stage in court proceedings where access is provided to or copies are exchanged of relevant documents relating to matters in dispute believed to be in the possession of another party.
    District Judge
    A county court judge responsible for dealing with most aspects of civil claims including personal injury, debt and family matters.
    District Judge
    A county court judge responsible for dealing with most aspects of divorce and civil partnership breakdown including the financial matters.and children.
    Domestic Abuse
    This is not limited to domestic violence but can also take other forms such as controlling someone’s movements or behaviour or verbally or psychologically abusing them. Controlling finances and denying a person access to money is also a form of domestic abuse.
    Domestic Abuse
    This is not limited to domestic violence but can also take other forms such as controlling someone’s movements or behaviour or verbally or psychologically abusing them. Controlling finances and denying a person access to money is also a form of domestic a
    Domicile
    The domicile of origin is normally where you are born unless a new domicile of choice is adopted by taking up permanent residence in another country.
    Donor
    This is the individual creating the Lasting Power of Attorney and giving power over their affairs to Attorneys
  5. E

    Emergency Protection Orders
    Enables the emergency removal of a child from a home in order to provide short term protection.
    Equity
    Refers to the net value of a property after mortgages or other charges are paid off.
    Estate
    Your estate includes your home, your car, your bank accounts, investments and anything else you own in your sole name such as jewellery and household items. Anything you own jointly will automatically pass to the surviving joint owner when you die.
    Estoppel
    A legal principle that prevents a person from denying or asserting something contrary to that which has been said or done in the past, particularly if someone else has acted to their detriment on what was said or done.
    Expert Witness
    A person with specialist knowledge in a particular area who is instructed to provide an opinion to assist the Judge in a court case. Experts can be appointed by the Claimant, Defendant or jointly.
  6. F

    Fact-Finding Hearing
    An alternative dispute resolution mechanism in which a neutral third party seeks to determine the facts of a case. Unlike Arbitration, Fact-Finding does not seek to determine the legal consequences of the event, just what is believe to have actually occurred.
    Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (FDR)
    This is the second court appointment within Ancillary Relief proceedings where the judge considers all offers made including those on a without prejudice basis.
    First Appointment (FA)
    This is the first court appointment within Ancillary Relief proceedings where the judge considers what other information is needed to determine financial matters.
    Fixed Fee
    Co-operative Legal Services offer a range of fixed price services which help you budget and keep control over your legal costs.
    Form E
    This is a sworn financial statement which contains details about your capital, income, assets and liabilities. Form E’s can either be exchanged voluntarily or as part of Ancillary Relief proceedings.
  7. G

    General Damages
    In personal injury cases, general damages are an element of the overall compensation awarded which cover pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
    Guardians
    Individuals nominated in a Will to look after the physical and emotional wellbeing of children.
  8. H

    Health and Welfare LPA
    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your health related affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.
    Hearsay Evidence
    Evidence given in court of something said to the witness by another person.
    House of Lords
    The second chamber of the UK Parliament involved in making laws and challenging the work of government.
  9. I

    In chambers
    This term is used when a District Judge or Judge considers an application in private. This is less formal than open court.
    Injunction
    A court order which requires someone to refrain from doing something. Penalties for not abiding by the order can include a fine or imprisonment in some cases.
    Inquest
    A process to determine as far as possible the identity of the deceased and where, when and how he/she came to die.
    Intestate
    The term used when someone dies without a valid Will in place. Without a Will, property and possessions held in the sole name of the deceased will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy. Jointly held assets will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner on death.
  10. J

    Joint Tenancy
    A form of joint ownership of land in which both parties share the whole title to the property. If one party dies the survivor will own the entire property.
    Judgement
    A decision made by a court after considering certain facts and evidence.
    Judgment in Default
    Judgment is awarded against a party if they fail to do something, e.g. failure to file a Defence.
    Judicial Precedent
    A decision made by a court based on certain facts for the first time upon which later courts will rely for future cases.
    Judicial Separation
    This involves a court procedure which is similar to divorce. The main difference is that the court pronounces a decree of Judicial Separation rather than a divorce. This means that you and your spouse would remain legally married and therefore not able to remarry.
    Jurisdiction
    The geographical area over which a court has authority to hear cases and make orders.
  11. L

    Lasting Power of Attorney
    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.
    Letter of Claim
    A letter from the Claimant to the Third Party/Defendant outlining brief details of their claim and requesting a response.
    Liability
    The state of being legally obliged and responsible for something.
    Liquid Assets
    Cash assets or assets easily convertible into cash such as net equity in any property(ies), savings, shares, ISAs or endowments and other policies.
    Litigant
    A person involved in a civil claim.
    Litigation
    Taking legal action through the courts.
    Litigation Friend
    A person who brings a claim on behalf of someone who is under the age of majority (see "majority").
    Losing Capacity
    To be unable to make or communicate your own decisions by reason of physical or mental impairment.
    LPA
    An abbrieviation for Lasting Power of Attorney.
    Lump sum
    A payment of a capital amount of money, often raised from the sale of property or other assets held jointly or by one of the parties.
  12. M

    Maintenance
    Money one spouse or civil partner pays to the other for ongoing financial support on a regular basis. Child maintenance may be payable for children too.
    Maintenance pending suit
    Maintenance which can be applied for to the court during the divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
    Majority
    The age when a person gains full legal rights and responsibilities. In the UK, this is 18 years old. If they wish to bring a claim before they reach majority then they must appoint someone to bring the claim for them - "Litigation Friend".
    Matrimonial home
    A property where the married couple lives or have lived together. It can either be rented or owned.
    Mediation
    A process in which an impartial third person assists the parties to reach agreed and informed decisions about some or all of the issues relating to a claim.
    Mediation
    A process in which an impartial third person assists those involved in a family breakdown to reach their own agreed and informed decisions about some or all of the issues relating to or arising from the separation, divorce, children, finance or property.
    Mediation information and assessment meeting
    Before court proceedings over money, property or possessions or arrangements for children are started, you must usually have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. At the meeting, the mediator will try to work out if mediation can help the parties reach an agreement.
    Mesothelioma
    A rare form of cancer that develops from cells of the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body.
    Minor
    Someone who has not yet reached the age when they gain their full legal rights and responsibilities, e.g. 18 years old in the UK.
    Minutes of order
    This is when draft terms of agreement go before the court with a request that a consent order be made in the same terms.
    Mortgagee
    This is usually a bank or building society, but it can be anyone, that lends you money to buy a property on the security of the property.
    Mortgagor
    This is the borrower who obtains the mortgage.
  13. N

    Named Person
    Someone who you wish to inform that you have made a Lasting Power of Attorney and you are now going to register it.
    Negligence
    Negligence is a failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person to whom a duty of care is owed.
    Non-molestation Order
    This is an order made by a court to protect someone who has suffered domestic abuse.
  14. O

    Occupation Order
    An order made by a court setting out who is entitled to occupy a matrimonial home. A spouse or civil partner can be excluded from the home or from a certain part of it.
    Office of the Public Guardian
    This is the agency that manages the registration and use of Lasting Powers of Attorney.
  15. P

    Parental Responsibility
    This means the rights and responsibilities that mothers and married fathers have to their children. Non-married fathers can acquire Parental Responsibility through marriage to the child's mother, by entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother.
    Part 36 Offer
    Under the Civil Procedure Rules, a formal offer made by either party in an attempt to settle a claim. The Rules provide that the offer must be in writing and can relate to the whole claim or part of a claim.
    Particulars of Case
    Term used in the Civil Procedure Rules. They may be included in the claim form or may be served separately when starting proceedings.
    Pension Sharing
    The division of a pension fund between two spouses or civil partners.
    Periodical payments
    Another term for maintenance which can be paid weekly, monthly or annually.
    Petition
    This is the document issued at the court for a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or legal separation.
    Petitioner
    The person who files the petition at court.
    Prayer
    The part of the Petition or Answer which asks the court to make orders in favour of the Petitioner or Respondent.
    Pre Action Protocol
    Statements of understanding between legal practitioners and others about pre-action practice and which are approved by relevant Civil Procedure Rules Practice Direction.
    Precedent
    A previous decision or proceeding which may be relied upon.
    Preliminary Hearing
    A hearing which takes place to decide a particular issue ahead of a later court hearing.
    Pre-nuptial Agreement
    Also known as a Pre-marital Agreement, this is a formal written agreement entered into by a couple before marriage. Its purpose is to record the parties' intentions as to the division of assets in the event that the marriage breaks. For civil partners, it is known as a pre-civil partnership or pre-registration.
    Privilege
    The right of a party to refuse to disclose a document or produce a document or to refuse to answer questions on the grounds of some special interest recognised by law.
    Professional
    Some Solicitors offer professional Attorney services, we do not offer these services at the Co-operative Legal Services.
    Prohibited steps order
    This is a court order used to prohibit something being done to a child, for example removing a child out of the country.
    Property adjustment order
    An order that someone should transfer a property or an interest in a property to the other in divorce or civil partnership proceedings.
    Property and Financial Affairs LPA
    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your financial affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.
  16. Q

    Queens Counsel (QC)
    A barrister who has been chosen by the Lord Chancellor to serve as Counsel to the Crown. QCs are sometimes referred to as silks.
    Quickie divorce
    Although not strictly a legal term, this generally refers to a divorce which proceeds under the special procedure (see later) process. If a divorce is undefended, the actual time taken for a divorce will vary from court to court. Normally, it will take between 4 and 5 months to complete.
  17. R

    Registered Office
    The official address of a company, association or other legal entity at which documents can be served.
    Request for directions
    An application to the court for a decree nisi, conditional order or decree of judicial separation.
    Residence
    Where a child or children will live. A court may make a residence order setting out where a child should live.
    Residence Order
    An application to the court appealing for them to make a decision over who the children should live with.
    Respondent
    The spouse who receives and responds to the petition for divorce or Judicial Separation.
    RSC
    Rules of the Supreme Court. (“The White Book”).
    Rules of Intestacy
    Set of legal rules which determine who will inherit your property when you are gone if you don’t leave a Will.
  18. S

    Separation agreement
    A document which sets out the agreement reached in financial matters as a result of a couple separating. Often the agreement is used as the basis for an order made in future court proceedings.
    Service
    The process by which court documents are formally sent to one party in court proceedings.
    Small Claims Court / Small Claims Track
    A section of the County Court which deals with small claims valued up to £10,000.00 (for personal injury cases, the injury element must be less than £1,000.00).
    Smith v Manchester
    A type of award made in some personal injury cases to compensate the Claimant where they can show that as a result of the injuries sustained they are at real risk that they will be disadvantaged on the open labour market in the event that they were to be unemployed.
    Solicitor
    A legally trained professional person who can provide advice and represent people on legal matters. All solicitors are listed on the roll of solicitors and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
    Special Damages
    In personal injury cases, special damages are an element of the overall compensation awarded which can be quantified and can cover items of financial loss such as out of pocket expenses and loss of earnings related to the accident.
    Special procedure
    When a petition is undefended, the decree or conditional order can be issued without either party having to appear at court.
    Specific issue order
    An order to resolve a particular issue in dispute relating to a child, for example when parents cannot agree about schooling or medical treatment.
    Spouse
    A husband or wife you are married to.
    Standard of Proof
    In a civil case this is on the "balance of probabilities", which is much lower than in criminal matters. The Claimant must be able to prove that the allegation is more likely than not to be correct, e.g. 51% or more.
    Statement of Arrangements for Children
    This form is sent to the court along with the divorce petition if there are any children. It sets out proposed arrangements for the children. If possible, this form should be agreed by the parents and signed.
    Statement of Case
    The documents in which a party sets out its case in civil law. These documents indicate the facts that are in dispute between the parties and the outcome sought.
    Statement of Truth
    All statements of case, witness statements and applications to the court must contain a statement by the parties confirming that they believe the facts they have set out to be true to the best of their knowledge.
    Stay
    A stay imposes a halt on proceedings but it does not bring them to a conclusion. Proceedings may continue once a stay is lifted.
    Substitute Attorneys
    Individuals named by you to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime should your initial Attorneys become unable to act.
  19. T

    Tenancy-in-common
    A form of property ownership in which separate shares are agreed (usually when the property is purchased). If one of the owners dies their share will form part of their estate and will not automatically belong to the survivor unlike Joint Tenants.
    Tort
    A tort is "civil wrong". The act of doing something which leads to a legal liability.
    Trial
    An examination of the evidence in a case and the application of the law that applies by as judge, usually without a jury in civil cases.
    Trust property
    Property named in a Will which is looked after by one set of individuals for the benefit of others.
    Trustee in Bankruptcy
    Individual appointed when someone is made bankrupt to ensure any creditors are paid.
    Trustees
    Individuals named in a Will to manage money on behalf of someone else in that document.
  20. U

    Undefended divorce
    Proceedings by agreement or when there is no answer.
    Undertaking
    A promise which can be enforced by law.
  21. V

    Vicarious Liability
    Where someone becomes legally responsible for the actions or omissions done by someone else, e.g. where an employee does something wrong whilst working which becomes the employer's responsibility.
  22. W

    Whiplash
    Whiplash is a term used to describe a soft tissue injury to the neck caused by sudden movement .
    Without prejudice
    This is a way of preventing the court at the final hearing from knowing about any negotiations which did not result in an agreement. You may see this term at the start of a letter.
    Witness Statement
    A signed written statement equivalent to the evidence which that witness would give in person at a hearing if asked to do so.
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