Legal Terms in Divorce

The language used is Family Law can sometimes be confusing and there are many legal phrases which lay litigants may not understand. This glossary is intended to clarify some of the common divorce related legal terms for those who are considering undertaking a DIY Divorce.

Although the information provided here should be sufficient to understand your divorce forms, it is not a complete list of legal terms. The information provided tries to explain ideas and concepts and should not be considered a dictionary of legal definitions.

If you would like to suggest a legal term which is not incorporated in this list, please let us know through our Contact Us page.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A
Ab initio
From the beginning
Abandonment
Giving up a legal right
Abatement
Reducing the gifts in a will, in proportion, when there is not enough money to pay them in full
Abovementioned
Describing something which has been referred to before in the document
Abscond
When a person fails to present themselves before the court when required
Access
The right of a non-custodial parent to see the children
Action
A civil court proceeding
Ad hoc
For a particular purpose
Ad idem
In agreement
Ad infinitum
Endlessly or forever
Ad interim
For the time being
Adjournment
Postponement of a court hearing by a judge
Affidavit
A written statement which is sworn to be true by the person signing it
Alimony
Payment by a spouse to the other spouse on separation. Now known as periodical payments
Ancillary Relief
Additional related orders available from the court
Annulment
Declaration by a competent authority that a valid marriage never existed
Appeal
Challenge to a court's findings in a higher court
Appellant
The person who is appealing to a court against a decision of a lower court
Appearance
The act of replying to a summons or turning up in court and accepting its jurisdiction to proceedings
Arrears
Overdue Payments
Articles
The clauses in a document
Asset
An owned item which has an economic value
Attachment and committal
Bringing a person before court with threat of imprisonment for failure to obey the court's order
Attachment of earnings
A court order that deductions be made from a person's earnings at source
B
Barring Order
An order preventing the Respondent threatening or molesting the Applicant or entering the Applicant's home
Barrister
A member of one branch of the legal profession who advises clients, generally works in the courts, and who receives instructions from a solicitor. Barristers do not normally deal with members of the public
Bigamy
The criminal offence of marrying another person while still in a valid marriage
C
Canon law
The name for the rules used for governing a Christian church
Chambers
Judge's personal rooms where matters may be heard in private
Chattel
Any property except freehold land
Chattels personal
The name for goods which can be touched such as watches, clothes and furniture
Child
Person under the age of 18
Child abduction
Wrongful removal of a child from its parent, guardian or country of residence
Circuit Court
Court above the District Court and below the High Court, with power to grant divorces and judicial separations
Circuit judge
A judge who is in charge of cases in the Circuit Court
Claim
Apply for a right; demand a remedy; or an application for something such as a right
Claimant
The person making a claim
Clause
A section in a contract
Codicil
Amendment to or addition of an existing will
Cohabitation
Living together as husband and wife, although not married
Collusion
Unlawful, and usually secret, agreement
Commissioner for Oaths
A person appointed by the Chief Justice to administer the swearing of oaths
Common law spouses
Term for unmarried partners
Conjugal rights
The right of one spouse to cohabit with the other
Consent Order
Court order agreed between both sides
Consummation
Completed; as a marriage is completed by sexual intercourse
Contempt
Deliberate disregard of a court order
Contempt of Court
Disobeying a court order; abusing a judge during a court case; or interfering in the administration of justice
Co-respondent
Person with whom a spouse have committed adultery
Convey
Transfer
Conveyance
The name of the document which transfers the ownership of land
Costs
The legal expenses of an action, such as lawyers' fees, witness expenses and other fees paid out in bringing the matter to court
Counsel
An advocate – usually a barrister
Counselling
Giving advice with a view to resolving differences
Counterclaim
The Respondent's claim against the Applicant; Making a claim in court against someone who has already made a claim against you
Custody
Care and charge of a child
D
Decree
Declaration by a court
Deed
A legal document which commits the person signing it to something
Deed of separation
Voluntary agreement by a couple not to cohabit
Default
Failing to do something which had been agreed
Defence
Response to claim of the Applicant
Defendant
Person against whom proceedings are brought
Defined benefit pension scheme
Where retirement benefits are based on an individual's final pay and service with the employer
Defined contribution pension scheme
Where employee and employer contribute to a fluctuating investment fund
Dependent
Person under the age of 18; or person under the age of 23 and who is in full-time education; or person who is mentally or physically disabled
Deponent
A person who swears on oath that a statement is correct
Desertion
Intentional separation and termination of cohabitation
Discovery
Sworn disclosure of documents
Divorce
The legal end to a marriage
Domicile
The country where your permanent home is even if you are living somewhere else; Established and permanent place of residence
Duress
Threatening or pressurising someone to do something by force
E
Endorsement of claim
Summary of the facts supporting a legal claim
Estate
All a person owns on the date of their death; or the right to use land for a period of time
Ex parte
Court application made without notice to the other side
Exhibit
Item or document produced during court proceedings
F
Family home
Place in which a married couple usually live
G
Guardian
A person appointed to look after the interests of a child or of someone who is not capable of looking after their own affairs
H
Hearsay
Inadmissible evidence of which a witness does not have direct knowledge from his own senses but which is based on what others have said
High Court
Court above the Circuit Court with full jurisdiction to decide all matters of law and fact
I
Injunction
Court order forbidding or requiring a certain course of action
Interim
Temporary
Intestacy
Death without a valid will
J
Jactitation
False claim to be married to someone
Judgement in default
Getting a judgement because a person failed to do something
Judicial separation
Court order removing a spouse's duty to cohabit
Jurisdiction
The territory in which a court can operate; or the power it has to deal with particular cases or the power it has to issue orders
K
 
L
Lay litigant
Non-lawyer who brings a legal action without the assistance of a barrister or solicitor
Legal Aid
Government scheme providing advice or assistance from a Solicitor or Barrister free or at a reduced rate
Liability
A debt or obligation
Lump sum
Money paid to a spouse in lieu of (or as well as) maintenance
M
Maintenance
Money paid periodically to support a spouse and children
Mediation
Form of alternative dispute resolution involving an agreed mediator acting as a facilitator to help the parties negotiate an agreement
Mortgage
Using property as security for a debt
Mortgagee
The lender of the money which is secured by a mortgage
Mortgagor
The person who borrows the money to buy a property
N
Notice
A warning of something which is about to happen
Nullity
A declaration by a competant authority that a valid marriage never existed
O
Oath
Swearing the truth of a statement
Order
Formal written direction by a judge
Orse
Otherwise known as
P
Parent
Father or mother of child, whether married or not
Partition
Division of land or property
Pension adjustment
An order for payment of all or part of one spouse's pension to the other spouse
Periodical payments
Maintenance payments
Petition
Formal written submission to court seeking judicial remedy
Petitioner
Person making petition
Plaintiff
The person who goes to court to make a claim against someone else
Pleadings
Written claims delivered by one claimant to another setting out the facts and legal arguments supporting his/her position, eg. Civil Bill, Defence
Polygamy
Being married to more than one person at once
Probate
Authority to deal with a dead person's estate
Property adjustment
A court order transferring property from one spouse to the other or varying the ownership of a property
Protection order
Temporary court order preventing a person from threatening, molesting or besetting another, pending a barring application
Q
 
R
Record
The documents in a court case from beginning to end
Reply
A plaintiff’s answer to a claim. In a civil case the defendant may offer a defence to the claim and make a counterclaim
Reserved costs
Apportionment of payment of legal fees to be decided at a later stage
Residence
Place where someone usually lives
Respondent
Person against whom a petition or appeal is brought
S
Safety order
An order preventing the use or threat of violence against the Applicant, or molesting or frightening him/her
Secured payment
An order ensuring payment of maintenance by one spouse to the other
Separation agreement
A voluntray agreement between two spouses to live apart
Service
Delivery of court documents by one party to the other, personally or by post
Settlement
Agreed comprimise of proceedings
Solicitor
A general lawyer who can deal with any legal matter, give advice and appear in court. All solicitors are listed on the Roll of Solicitors kept by the Law Society of Ireland
Spouse
Husband or wife
Summons
Written command to a person to appear in court
T
Testamentary capacity
Legal ability to make a will
Testator
Person who makes a will
Tort
Non-contractual breach of duty. Doing something which harms someone else. Torts include wrongs such as: negligence, nuisance, defamation, false imprisonment, and trespass
Trial
An examination of the evidence in a case and the law which applies
Trustee
A person who holds property and looks after it on behalf of someone else
U
Undertaking
A promise given to a court which can be enforced by law
Undue influence
Unfair pressure which may invalidate a contract
Unreasonable behaviour
Behaviour by a married person that justifies the other partner in the marriage living apart
V
Variation
Alteration of the terms of court order
W
Waiver
Renunciation of a right or benefit
Will
A legal document which people use to leave as a gift money and property when they die
Without prejudice
The document may not be used as evidence that a contract or agreement exists
X
 
Y
 
Z