1. Abduction

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    A child is taken across an international border without the consent of a parent with parental rights/rights of custody or the permission of the court. This can be both a criminal and civil offence.

  2. Acknowledgement of Service

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    A document sent to court to confirm that you have received certain paperwork in legal proceedings. In divorce or dissolution proceedings, the acknowledgement of service has to be returned to the court within a set timescale.

  3. Adjournment

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    The postponement of a court hearing to a later date.

  4. Adultery

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    Having sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex other than your husband or wife.

  5. Advocate

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    In the context of legal proceedings, a solicitor or barrister who speaks on their client's behalf in court.

  6. Affidavit

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    A sworn witness statement, rather than one that is simply signed. The affidavit is taken to a solicitor or member of staff at court who is authorised to administer oaths and the person making the statement swears on a holy book or affirms that the contents of the statement are true.

  7. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

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    A collective term for ways of resolving legal disputes other than through court proceedings. Methods of alternative dispute resolution, which is usually known by the abbreviation ADR, include mediation , collaborative law , 'round table' meetings held to reach agreement through discussion, arbitration , and negotiations conducted via solicitors.

  8. Ancillary relief proceedings

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    The old-fashioned term for the financial proceedings associated with a divorce , dissolution or decree of nullity .

  9. Appeal

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    An application to a higher court to alter a decision made by a lower court.

  10. Applicant

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    In court proceedings, the term for the person who begins the proceedings by making an application. If a person makes an application within existing proceedings, they are also an 'applicant' but they are usually known by their original title within the proceedings, i.e. the applicant if they made the original application or the respondent if they did not.

  11. Arbitration

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    When parties to a legal dispute agree formally that instead of going to court, they will ask a third party with the appropriate qualifications and expertise - an arbitrator - to make a decision. The parties agree in advance that they will be bound by the arbitrator's decision, which can only be challenged in specific circumstances.

  12. Barrister

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    A lawyer who specialises in speaking on their clients' behalf in court and giving written opinions on specific legal issues.

  13. Bigamy

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    The crime of attempting to marry while still married to another person.

  14. Brief

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    The term for the file(s) of documents and specific instructions given to a barrister by a solicitor who has hired (or 'instructed') them on their client's behalf.

  15. CAFCASS

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    This stands for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS officers speak to parents, children and other relevant family members and professionals to advise the court when it is making a decision about the upbringing of a child or children. CAFCASS officers are social workers who are independent of the courts, social services and health and education authorities. CAFCASS officers write reports to help the courts reach decisions about children, assist parents in dispute with attempting to reach a settlement at court and, in some complex cases, represent the child within court proceedings.

  16. Chambers

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    The name for the offices of either a judge or a barrister.

  17. Child arrangements order

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    An order of the court specifying who a child is to live with and when (this can be more than one person at different times) and who they are to see and when. These used to be called residence orders and contact orders .

  18. Child Support Agency / Child Maintenance Service

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    Between them, these two government bodies administer the calculation, collection and enforcement of child maintenance payments in almost all cases where an informal arrangement is not possible. The Child Support Agency was set up in the 1990s but stopped dealing with any new cases from 2013 onwards. It is expected to be phased out by 2017. The Child Maintenance Service started taking on cases in 2012 and now takes on all new cases. Parents who live apart do not have to use the service unless there is a dispute over payments that they cannot resolve themselves.

  19. Civil partnership

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    Available from 2005, civil partnerships can be entered into by a same sex couple, providing them with equivalent legal rights to opposite sex couples in a marriage. From March 2014, same sex couples have also been able to marry. From December 2014, it has been possible to convert an existing civil partnership into a marriage without the need for a ceremony or for the civil partnership to first be dissolved. Civil partnerships are not available to opposite sex couples.

  20. Clean break

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    A financial settlement upon divorce or dissolution where there are to be no ongoing payments made by one spouse or civil partner to the other, except for the payment of child maintenance (if applicable), and where neither spouse or civil partner will have any continuing financial claim against the other. A clean break can take effect immediately upon the dissolution of the marriage or civil partnership, after a certain date or after certain specified actions have been taken (e.g. the payment of a lump sum or the sale of a property).

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