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Glossary: Child Custody Terms and Definitions

Glossary: Child Custody Terms and Definitions

Child custody and maintenance disputes contain many different facets that have significant impact on any decision regarding the case. Below is a glossary containing some of the most commonly used terms.

Access/ Contact

This is the term used for allowing the child to see or stay with the parent they do not usually live with. It can also refer to grandparents or other carers, as well as phone calls, emails and other correspondence.

Absent Parent

This is the term for a non-custodial parent who is physically absent from the child’s home, but legally obliged to pay child support.

Court Order

An official proclamation by a judge or panel of judges, defining the legal relationships between parties to a trial, hearing or appeal.

Child Arrangements Order

This order requires the person with custody of the child to allow the child to visit or stay with the other party named in the order.

Child Maintenance

Child maintenance payments are payments made by the parent who doesn’t have day-to-day custody of the child. Child maintenance is often assessed by the Child Support Agency.

Periodical Payments

A form of financial support from one party to another, either in the form of monthly payments or a lump sum.


Trained, neutral mediators facilitate discussions between the two parties to attempt to find a resolution without having to go through the courts.

‘Specific Issue Order’

This order is designed to look at, as the name suggests, a specific part of the child’s upbringing. Examples of this include where they go to school and if they should have a religious education.

Parental Responsibility

This is a legal responsibility for all mothers and most fathers. The most important facets of this are to ensure the protection and maintenance of the child, and providing a safe home for the child.

C100 court form

The form you need to fill out in order to apply for a court order.

Directions Hearing

This takes place after proceedings have started. The hearing takes place to see what issues between the parties, if any, can be agreed or narrowed and then how best to move forward to try and resolve the remaining issues.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass)

The primary role of Cafcass is to ensure that in a dispute relating to children, the views of the child are heard and appropriate the weight attached to them in any recommendations that are to be made to that child.


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