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Glossary: Divorce terms explained

The vast range of legal terminology that is used during divorce cases can be very confusing, so we have compiled a glossary of the most commonly used terms and their definitions.

Acknowledgement of Service

When a divorce petition or an application relating to children is issued, the recipient will be sent an acknowledgement of service by the court to complete to acknowledge the petition or application and state their agreement or disagreement to what is being asked for.


A formal, written statement that is sworn to be true by the person writing it. Usually, it is sworn before a solicitor other than your own or an authorised Court Officer.


Also known as maintenance, this is the monthly payment that a husband or wife must pay to a spouse after divorce or separation as ongoing financial support.

Ancillary Relief

The part of the divorce process that resolves financial disputes between the parties, now known as financial remedy proceedings.


Another way of ending a marriage. Unlike divorce, which can only be undertaken at least a year after the wedding, annulments can take place at any time.


An answer is a defence from the Respondent to a divorce petition.

Clean break

A financial settlement where both spouses agree that they will make no more financial claims against one another in future.


Also known as mediation, this is the process of two parties discussing their dispute through a neutral party.


A co-respondent is the person who the Respondent has allegedly engaged in adultery with. 


A cross-petition is the name given to a petition filed by the Respondent to a divorce petition.

Decree Absolute

This is a legal order that official ends the marriage, meaning both parties are free to remarry.

Decree Nisi

A legal order that states the date that the marriage will end, unless either party provides a good reason for the divorce to not be granted.

Divorce Petition

A divorce petition is the document that a spouse send to the Court to begin the divorce process. The person lodging the petition is known as the Petitioner, and the recipient is called the Respondent.

Financial Remedy Orders

Formerly called an ‘ancillary relief order’, this is applying for a financial settlement, whether that is a lump sum, regular maintenance payments or ownership of property or assets. Find out more on our Financial Orders page in our Advice Centre.

In Chambers

Discussions or hearings that take place in private where the public are not allowed in.


This is the official power to make legal decisions.


This is where trained, independent mediators facilitate discussions between married couples to help resolve disputes without using the court system.


This is the person who applies for a divorce petition from the courts.

Property Orders

This order allows the Court to deal with property owned by the spouses, e.g. transferring ownership of a property from both spouses to one of the spouses.


The Respondent is the spouse who receives the divorce petition from the other spouse.

Statement of Truth

This is a formal statement that confirms the contents within any written document relevant to the process are true. This is either signed and dated by the person who makes the document, or a solicitor on his/her behalf.