Divorce Jargon Buster

Divorce can be a confusing process and the language may quite sound alien to the uninitiated. Never fear as we have put together a handy jargon busting guide so you can be in the know.


Acknowledgement of service

This is a document sent by the court to the other spouse. They must sign and return this to confirm that they have received the divorce petition.



An affidavit is sworn statement that confirms to the court the accuracy of everything that is in the petition. This will be done by another solicitor or a Commissioner for Oaths.



CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officers prepare reports and advise the Court in divorce cases involving children.


Child arrangement order

This is an order used to decide a child’s living arrangements and contact with parents.


Consent order

If the parties agree on the distribution of assets a consent order can be applied for.


Contested Divorce

This is a situation where the respondent does not accept the grounds for divorce.



If the grounds for divorce is adultery the co-respondent would be the other participant in the adulterous affair.


Contact Order

A Contact Order sets out arrangement for contact with the non-resident parent.


Decree nisi

The Judge will consider the divorce petition and if satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce will set a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. It is not necessary for parties to attend court for this pronouncement.


Decree absolute

After six weeks and one day of the decree nisi being pronounced the decree absolute can be applied for. Once this has been granted then the marriage will be legally dissolved.


Divorce Petition

The divorce petition is a document that requests the court dissolve the marriage. It is written by or on behalf of one spouse and served on the other.


Form E

This is a form used to agree the separation of marital finances during divorce. Both parties will need to provide full and frank financial disclosure of all the assets and liabilities in the marriage.



The divorcing couple will meet with a neutral third party called a mediator, who will help them to amicably agree issues such as child custody, contact with children, property and finances.


Parental responsibility

Parents with parental responsibility have the legal right and responsibility to make decisions about the care and upbringing of their children. This continues after divorce. Fathers who don’t already have parental responsibility can apply for a parental responsibility agreement or a court order.



The spouse who initiates the divorce and files the divorce petition at court is known as the Petitioner.


Postnuptial Agreement

A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement but takes place after the couple are married.


Prenuptial agreement

A prenuptial agreement is a document created before the marriage which sets out arrangement for distribution of assets in the event that they divorce in the future. Prenuptial agreements are not legally binding but are usually upheld in court.



The respondent is the spouse who has divorce proceedings issued upon them.


Residence Order

This is a court order specifying with whom a child is to live.


Separation Agreement

This is a document that sets out the financial arrangements before divorce proceedings are considered.


Undefended divorce

This is the court process that legally ends the marriage without any objections from the other party on the grounds for divorce. This can speed up the divorce process.


Uncontested divorce

This applies where you and your spouse have agreed to obtain a divorce. It assumes that the other party does not formally object to the divorce and that the Court accepts the grounds for divorce without question (which is normally the case).


Without prejudice

Documents and conversations that are described as being ‘without prejudice’ are not be used in court. This term is used to make it easier to explore options during discussions.


The handy infographic below explains the divorce process in simple terms (click to expand):

divorce infographic

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