Explaining the jargon used by the Court in simple English


Divorce is inherently stressful and confusing. Some of the technical and legal language surrounding the divorce process can make it unnecessarily so, placing an extra layer of uncertainty on your shoulders at just the same time as you are most overburdened. This is why the divorce team at Wellers has compiled a useful glossary of terms and phrases to lighten the load so that you can navigate the process with as much clarity and confidence as possible.

Petition: The document that begins the process of divorce.

Prayer: The request made to the Court by the petitioner as to what action/relief is being sought.

Petitioner: The person who starts the divorce.

Respondent: The party who is responding to the person initiating the divorce.

Co-respondent: If one spouse is accused of adultery and this is the claimed grounds for divorce, ‘co-respondent’ refers to the named person with whom the respondent is alleged to have been unfaithful.

Spouse: Your husband or wife.

Reconciliation Statement: Filed with the Petition to advise the Court if you have been given guidance on reconciling. The solicitor acting for the petitioner will need to complete and sign this document.

Acknowledgement of Service: A form which has to be completed, signed and returned to confirm receipt of the divorce petition.

Answer: If a Respondent wants to defend the divorce an answer has to be filed defending the allegations in the petition.

Disbursements: Costs relating to divorce and financial proceedings other than solicitor fees. For example, expenses and court fees.

Request for Directions: A document sent to the Court asking for Decree Nisi.

Statement in Support: Signed statement by Petitioner sent with a Request for Directions, advising the Court of any changes since the petition.

Special Procedure Certificate: Court notice giving the date of Decree Nisi.

Irretrievable breakdown:The legal grounds for divorce. There are five types of legally recognised proof that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. These are the following: Adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, and five years’ separation (no consent required).

Decree Nisi: The judge’s formal acknowledgement that you have proved the grounds for divorce. It will later become absolute.

Decree Absolute: The legal document that formally ends your marriage. Leaves you free to remarry and replaces the marriage certificate.

Dissolution: Another word for divorce – meaning the dissolving of the marriage.

Financial settlement on divorce: The process of sorting out the finances of a marriage, including property, assets maintenance etc. Also referred to as ancillary relief.

Divorce solicitors across London and the South East

The divorce lawyers at Wellers combine expertise and extensive knowledge with a sympathetic and personalised approach that takes full account of your aims and circumstances.

We have offices across London and the South and can help you with every aspect of divorce, from child arrangements to financial settlements and beyond. Useful information about the divorce process can be found in our online guide.

Many of our divorce solicitors are members of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) and when appropriate will attempt to resolve your situation in a constructive and collaborative manner. However, we understand that disagreements and difficult details mean recourse to the courts is sometimes inevitable, and we are prepared to take this action whenever necessary.

For more information, call our Bromley team on 020 8464 4242, Sevenoaks on 01732 457575, central London on 020 7481 6393 or Surrey on 01372 750100. Alternatively, email familylaw@wellerslawgroup.com.