Adultery is grounds for a divorce (but not for the dissolution of a civil partnership) if the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent. Adultery is sexual intercourse between a man and a woman where one of them is married to someone else.

Ancillary Relief

Financial orders made in divorce or dissolution proceedings. Now known as financial orders or financial remedies.


One of the Facts that proves that a marriage has irretrievably broken down so that the court can grant a divorce. Often referred to as “Unreasonbale Behaviour” – see below.

Child Arrangements Orders

These orders replaced Contact Orders and Residence Orders on 22 April 2014. They state how much time the children spend with their parents and where they live.

Child Support

Maintenance paid by one parent to meet the needs of his or her children. Child support refers to child maintenance assessed by the Child Support Agency (who no longer take on new cases), whereas child maintenance is assessed by the Child Maintenance Service who now have responsibility for all new child maintenance cases. Child maintenance also refers to maintenance ordered by the court, where the figure is agreed or the CSA or CMS have no jurisdiction, such as in cases where the paying parent lives outside the UK or where his or her income is so high that a topping up order is justified.

Contact Orders

Orders that set out how and when a parent sees his or her children. Commonly known to non-lawyers as “access”. These have been replaced as from 22 April 2014 b Child Arrangements Orders.


Desertion is grounds for divorce or a dissolution where the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least 2 years.

Family Court

The Family Court replaced the County Court’s family jurisdiction and the Family Proceedings Court as from 11 April 2014. It deals with almost all family cases, including divorces, financial disputes between divorcing couples, disputes about children and domestic violence cases.

Financial Orders

Financial orders made in divorce or dissolution proceedings. Formerly known as ancillary relief. Includes financial provisions (maintenance orders and lump sums orders), property adjustment orders and pension sharing or attachment orders.

Lump sum orders

An order made in divorce or dissolution proceedings that one party pay or cause to be paid a lump sum to the other a party

Non-Molestation Orders

An injunction order restraining a party from assaulting, molesting, harassing or pestering another person.

Occupation Orders

An order forcing one party to leave the home or to allow another party to return to the property.

Parental Responsibility Orders

All mothers have parental responsibility for their children, as do married fathers and unmarried fathers who are registered as the father for births since December 2003. Parental responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has by law in relation to a child and his property.


The party starting divorce proceedings.

Pension Sharing Orders and Pension Attachment Orders

Pension sharing orders transfer a percentage of one party’s pension fund to another party in divorce or dissolution proceedings. Pension attachment orders earmark part of one party’s pension fund for the benefit of the other party in the divorce.

Periodical Payments Orders

An order that one party in a divorce or dissolution pay maintenance to the other party. Commonly known to non-lawyers as “alimony”.

Property Adjustment Orders

An order in a divorce or dissolution transferring an asset, usually a house, from one party to another.

Prohibited Steps Orders

An order barring one parent from taking a step in relation to a child.

Residence Orders

An order stating the parent or parents with which a child shall live. Commonly known amongst non-lawyers as custody. Residence Orders were replaced by Child Arrangement Orders on 22 April 2014.


The party who does not start divorce or dissolution proceedings, but who faces a divorce or dissolution petition issued by the Petitioner.

Separation (2 years)

Grounds for divorce or dissolution, provided that the respondent consents.

Separation (5 years)

Grounds for divorce or dissolution. The respondent’s consent is not required.

Specific Issue Orders

An order resolving a specific dispute about a child, such as which school he or she attends or whether he or she has medical treatment.

Unreasonable behaviour

Grounds for divorce or dissolution, defined as behaviour such that the respondent cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. Strictly speaking the correct term is “behaviour”, not “unreasonable behaviour”.