The world of separation can be hard enough, without having to decipher all of the jargon and terminology commonly used around divorce, separation, child arrangements and much more.
Below is Dads Unlimited’s guide to understanding the language, words, phrases, and TLAs (three-letter acronyms). It’s regularly updated, so do check back, and please contact us if there are more terms that you think we should include.
A-Z of Family Separation
- ACRO: ACRO manages the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UKCA-ECR), which exchanges conviction information with the other EU Member States. ACRO delivers services to members of the public including Police Certificates, ICPCs and the co-ordination of Subject Access and record deletion requests. ACRO can provide you with an up to date / current information held about you on the Police National Computer for free.
- Appellant: A person who applies to appeal a decision – to ask a higher court to review or change the decision of the lower court.
- Applicant: This term applies to a person who files a petition or makes an application; the petitioner; or the person who is applying for a legal remedy to a problem.
- Barrister: A barrister is a qualified legal professional, offering specialist advice whilst representing, advocating and defending its clients in court (in front of a judge, and possibly a jury), or at a tribunal. Unlike a solicitor where members of the public are free to contact and instruct them, this is not always true of barristers. However, for some reasonably straight forward cases, a member of the public can instruct a barrister, if they go through the Public Access Scheme. Public access is available in all types of work that barristers can do, except for work funded out of legal aid. It is also unlikely to be appropriate in cases involving children.
- Bundle: A court bundle is a folder(s) which contains copies of all the documents which are considered relevant to a court case.
- C100: The application form to apply to the court for an order including child arrangements order, specific issue order, and prohibited steps order
- C1A: A court form alleging domestic abuse or harm, a supplementary form sometimes submitted alongside the C100 or in response to receiving a C100
- C79: A C79 is a court form that is used if you need to enforce or vary an existing Child Arrangements Order.
- Cafcass: Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. For more information visit https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/
- CAO: Child Arrangements Order.
- Coercive Behaviour: An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.
- Controlling Behaviour: A range of actions designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their recourses and capacities for personal gain, depriving their independence, resistance and escape and regulating their day to day activities.
- Crown Prosecution Service (CPS): the principal public agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in England and Wales. It’s main responsibilities are to provide legal advice to the police and other investigative agencies during the course of criminal investigations, to decide whether a suspect should face criminal charges following an investigation, and to conduct prosecutions both in the magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court.
- DARA: Kent Police a tool to assess risk in Domestic Abuse cases, this is called DARA (Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment)
- DASH: Dash stands for domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based violence. A risk assessment used by professionals to understand the risk of serious harm.
- Directions Appointment: When the court considers what has happened so far in the case and issues instructions in the form of directions about what should happen before the next hearing.
- DRA: Dispute Resolution Appointment. This is the name given to a hearing ahead of the final hearing, normally the second hearing, and it is to try and identify the remaining issues to be determined. It can also be used as a final hearing if the court decide as such.
- District Judges: Full-time judges who deal with the majority of cases in county courts.
- Expert Witness: A person with a high level of knowledge or skill, a specialist usually instructed to give or prepare evidence to the court on matters within his or her expertise
- Fact-Finding Hearing: if one party makes allegations against the other and the other party denies it, the judge will consider a fact-finding hearing to decide whether or not the allegations are true.
- Family Court: Hearings in the family courts are in private and only those who are involved can attend. The judge does not wear robes and the proceedings are much more informal than those in a criminal court so that people who are often frightened and nervous do not feel intimidated and can tell the judge what they want to say.
- Family Court Appeal: You can apply to a higher court to review or change the decision of the lower court. You will be required to show you have grounds to appeal, not just because you disagree with the decision overall. Grounds for appeal include serious procedural or material irregularities. There is a 21 day time limit to submit an appeal. Outside of that time limit you may need to seek court’s permission to appeal.
- FHDRA: First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment. This is the name given to the first time that you go to court in an application for a Child Arrangements Order or similar. The aim here is to discover which issues the parties agree on and what still needs to be determined by the court process. It is at this first hearing that directions will be given for the next hearing on what needs to be done by each party, or by a third-party expert, to move the case forward.
- Final Hearing: A hearing that takes place to determine the final position of each of the issues regarding the child/ren that have been put before the court. The judge will hear the evidence and impose a judgement.
- FLO: Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) are line managed in their individual schools by their headteachers. The FLO works directly with parents in a non-judgmental way empowering them and their families to get the most out of the educational opportunities available.
- Gaslighting: The act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings.
- Hague Convention: A convention signed by a number of countries to enforce rights of custody and prevent wrongful removal of children.
- Interim Order: A time-limited order that is renewable and for a short term, usually made leading up to a final hearing.
- Judge: A Judge is a person who presides over (deals with) the proceedings. In the Family Court, there are three levels of judges who are likely to hear your case. These are: 1) Judges of the District Judge level – these are the Judges that hear most family law cases. 2) Judges of the Circuit Judge level – these judges are allocated cases which are considered to have additional complexity. They can also deal with some appeal cases. 3) Magistrates are ‘lay’ people from the community who have been recruited and trained to hear cases. They will not usually have a legal background. They receive support from Legal Advisers who advise them on the law and procedure.
- Lay Justices: Lay justices – or magistrates, are volunteers who hear cases in criminal and family courts. You do not need formal legal training to become a magistrate.
- Legal Aid: Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. You’ll usually need to show that your case is eligible for legal aid, the problem is serious and / or you cannot afford to pay for legal costs. You could, for example, get legal aid if you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm, for example, domestic violence or forced marriage, you’re at risk of homelessness or losing your home, you’ve been accused of a crime, face prison or detention, you’re being discriminated against, you need family mediation, you’re adding legal arguments or bringing a case under the Human Rights Act.
- Local Authority: The group of people who govern an area, especially a city. The council of a county or metropolitan district.
- Magistrates: Magistrates are ‘lay’ people from the community who have been recruited and trained to hear cases in the court. Magistrates are volunteers who hear cases in courts in their community. They can hear cases in the criminal court, the family court, or both. Each case is usually heard by 3 magistrates, including a magistrate who is trained to act as a chairperson. A legal adviser in the court gives advice on the law and makes sure the magistrates follow the right procedures.
- Mediation: A mediator can help you and your ex-partner agree on child arrangements, without taking sides. Mediation is not relationship counselling. It can help you agree on the details of how you’ll look after your children, such as where they live, when they spend time with each parent, when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example) and child maintenance payments.
- MIAM: ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ where a mediator explains how mediation can help you sort out arrangements for any children and agree your financial settlement. The government wants to encourage the use of family mediation to reduce the number of cases being decided at court
- Non-Mol: Non-Molestation Order, sometimes colloquially referred to as a restraining order. A court order which prevents harassing or behaviour taking place, for example; stopping someone from coming within 100 metres of your house, or prohibiting someone from sending harassing text messages
- Occupation Order: An order granted under the Family Law Act 1996, regulating occupation of a specific home. It includes the power to either allow a person back into a home or to exclude a person from a home and/or from a particular area, in which the home is situated.
- Parental Alienation: When a child is resisting or refusing contact with a parent and this resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
- Parental Responsibility: All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent – known as ‘parental responsibility’.
If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to provide a home for the child, protect and maintain the child, If you have parental responsibility for a child you don’t live with, you don’t necessarily have a right to contact with them – but the other parent still needs to keep you updated about their well-being and progress. You’re also responsible for disciplining the child, choosing and providing for the child’s education, agreeing to the child’s medical treatment, naming the child and agreeing to any change of name, looking after the child’s property. Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.
- Position Statement: A statement/document that outlines your current position for the hearing. A position statement should not include evidence. The court will request evidence to be filed separately and it will form part of the witness statement. Position statement should contain brief background information to the situation, brief summary of what has happened to bring the situation to court, and desirable outcome.
- Pre-hearing Conference: A meeting with a barrister before the hearing in order to discuss the case face to face and get advice.
- PSO: Prohibited Steps Order: a court order preventing something from happening, for example; stopping a child being taken abroad by one of the parents for fear of abduction or harm
- Respondent: In the context of family law, refers to the party in the proceedings who is responding to the application. The term can be used specifically (referring to the Respondent to the divorce proceedings) or more generally when the reference is to the party responding to an application made by another, the applicant.
- Review Hearing: A Judge may order a review hearing during court procedures or once the final order is made to control the case or review the matter.
- Scott Schedule: A Scott Schedule is a schedule or table which is used in court proceedings in the Family Court in order to clearly set out the allegations which are in dispute. The Judge will make directions for parties to submit a Scott Schedule, where necessary, and this will generally be required in advance of a fact-finding hearing. A fact-finding hearing is a name given to a court hearing where the Judge will determine if certain allegations are true or false.
- Section 7 Report: A section 7 report is sometimes ordered by the court during proceedings. The report is written by a CAFCASS worker will decide what information they need for the report based on what the court has asked them to look into. This may include talking to children (depending on their age and understanding) about their wishes and feelings and what they would like to happen. The Cafcass worker will usually talk to the children alone – this may be at a neutral venue such as at their school spend time with you and the other party and listen to any concerns you might have. They may also speak to other people such as family members, teachers and health workers. The Cafcass worker will not ask your children to make a decision or to choose between you and the other party. Having made these enquiries the Cafcass worker will write a report advising the court on what they think should happen. In most cases, you will be able to see the Cafcass report before the court hearing.
- Section 37 Report: This is usually ordered by the court where matters are complex and the court is concerned with the welfare of the child. Prepared by the local authorities. The report must answer the primary question whether there is a need to apply for a care or supervision order with respect to the child. The Supervision order is given for up to 1 year with a possible extension for up to 3 years. It doesn’t counter PR and the child is treated as a “looked after child”. The care order lasts for entirety of the child’s childhood unless it’s discharged.
- SI: Specific Issue Order, a court order determining a decision on a specific issue, for example; which school a child should attend
- Social Services: Social Services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and can offer a wide range of care services to children and their parents. Social Services’ care department helps ensure children are healthy, safe, and well looked after. They are sometimes called ‘Children’s Services’.
- Solicitor: A solicitor is a qualified legal practitioner, responsible for preparing legal documentation, representing and/or defending a client’s legal interests and providing specialist legal advice on a variety of different areas in law.
- Undertaking: A formal and binding promise to the court to do or not to do something, which if broken is deemed a contempt of court.
- Victim Support: Victim Support is an independent charity in England and Wales that provides specialist practical and emotional support to victims and witnesses of crime.
- Witness Statement: A document setting out the evidence of the person writing the witness statement. It should contain a statement of truth.