Glossary of Terms
(Legal terms that may be encountered in the process of separation and divorce)
Abandonment This term is applied when one married spouse leaves the marital
home. In some countries, this may be grounds for divorce or may
reflect adversely upon the spouse who moves. In Australia
however, there is a no blame approach.
Abduction The wrongful taking away of a person. Commonly refers to a child
being taken by a parent in breach of a Court Order.
Abuse In relation to a child means (a) an assault, including a sexual
assault, of the child; or (b) a person (the first person) involving the
child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in
which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by
the first person or the other person, and where there is an unequal
power in the relationship between the child and the first person; or
(c) causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm,
including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child
being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence; or (d) serious
neglect of the child.
The address given by a party where documents can be served on
them by hand, post or some other form of electronic
Adjourn To defer or postpone a court event to another day.
Adultery This term refers to sexual intercourse by a married person outside
of the marriage. Australia has moved to a "no fault" divorce.
However, in some countries this may also be grounds for divorce
or adversely affect the offender's case.
An adversarial approach of dealing with disputes is characterised
by parties engaging in a competitive approach to present their
case. It may involve high levels of conflict. (See adversarial system
In an adversarial system, the court process involves opposing
parties arguing their case in opposition to each other in presenting
their case to a third party (usually a judge or magistrate). The third
partys role is to determine the outcome of the case.
Affidavit A written statement by a party or witness. It is the main way of
presenting the facts of a case to the court. An affidavit must be
signed before an authorised person (such as a lawyer or Justice of
the Peace) by way of attesting to the truth of the contents of the
Affirmation A declaration by a person that evidence which they give in court,
or an affidavit they make is true. A person makes an affirmation if
they do not wish to swear an oath.
AFP Australian Federal Police. The Police Force established by the
Commonwealth Government to deal with crimes under
A person named in a Domestic Violence Protection Order who is
protected by the order in addition to the aggrieved spouse. Usually
relatives, friends etc of the aggrieved spouse
A person who is entitled to apply for a Domestic Violence
Agreement An agreement at law is where two or more people consent to an
arrangement which requires them each to take certain actions or
abide by certain conditions.
A list maintained by the Australian Federal Police of children at risk
of being removed from Australia in breach of a court order.
Alien A person who is a non-citizen of Australia.
All methods of resolving disputes which do not involve a court
making a decision. Common methods of Alternative Dispute
Resolution are Mediation and Conciliation.
Annuity A yearly payment of a certain sum of money
Annulment A marriage is declared to be annulled where the law does not
recognise it as a valid marriage. (This is different to religious
procedures for annulment. Any inquiry about church granted
annulments should be made through the relevant church.)
Annulment "Nullity of Marriage" A legal action that says your marriage was
never legally valid because of unsound mind, incest, bigamy,
being too young to consent, fraud, force, or physical incapacity.
Appeal Procedure which allows a party to challenge the decision made by
a court and have the court decision reviewed by a higher court.
There must be valid grounds of appeal or the higher court will not
take the case.
Applicant The person who applies to a court for orders.
The forms issued by the court which must be completed to get the
court to make an order for divorce
Apprehend To take somebody into custody of police.
Funds which can accept deposits of superannuation benefits
which must by law be preserved until retirement.
Centres approved by law to provide dispute resolution services for
parties in dispute over parenting issues. (See Family Relationship
Arbitration A dispute resolution procedure where an expert person makes a
decision to resolve the dispute. In family law, this can only be
used for property disputes.
Arrearage The amount of money that is past due for child or spousal support.
Arrears Child maintenance or child support owing under an order,
agreement or assessment.
Arrest The procedure where a person is taken into police custody to be
charged with a criminal offence or to be brought before a court,
and must remain in police custody until they receive bail or until a
court deals with their charges.
Assault The application of force, or threatened application of force, to a
person without their consent.
An order by a Court Magistrate or the Children's Court authorising
action necessary as part of the investigation process to assess
whether a child is in need of protection from harm.
ATO Australian Taxation Office The Government Department which
administers the law in relation to Taxation.
Attorney A person who is appointed to act on behalf of another usually in
the areas of property and financial affairs.
The government minister responsible for the administration of
Auction A process by which property is offered for sale to the highest
People licensed to act as Auctioneers of Agents under the
Auctioneers and Agents Act administered by the Office of Fair
A single identifier for dealings with the Australian Taxation Office.
It replaces the Australian company number or Australian
registered body number.
A person who is a citizen of Australia, either by birth or because
they have been granted citizenship.
Persons entitled to reside in Australia, either because they are
citizens or because they hold an appropriate visa.
A person, other than a minister of religion, authorised to perform
A person authorised to make an application for a Domestic
Violence Protection Order on behalf of an aggrieved spouse.
Award A document, approved by the necessary authority, which sets out
the terms and conditions of employment.
BAC Blood alcohol Concentration. The percentage of alcohol present in
a person's blood.
Bail The release of a person from custody based on a written
commitment or promise by a person that they will appear in court
on the next occasion when their case comes before the court.
Bailiff A court officer who assists in court proceedings, serves court
documents and carries out court orders eg warrants to sell
Bailment The delivery of goods from one person to another for a particular
purpose (eg storage, repair, cleaning) upon condition that the
goods will be returned.
An objective test applied by the courts to each party's
circumstances to establish who is more inconvenienced with
having to travel to court.
The standard of proof in civil cases, ie for something to be proven
to be true it must be more probable than not. This is a lesser
standard than the standard of proof in criminal matters which is
"beyond reasonable doubt".
Bank cheque A cheque issued by a bank which is often accepted as cash, unlike
a personal cheque which must be cleared.
Bankrupt When a person is unable to pay their debts, a court may order that
their financial affairs be managed by a trustee to call in all assets
and pay debts from available funds. Also referred to as insolvent
Bankruptcy When a person is unable to pay their debts, a court may order that
their financial affairs be managed by a trustee to call in all assets
and pay debts from available funds. Also referred to as insolvency.