Glossary of Terms

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Glossary of legal terms that may be encountered in the process of separation and divorce.

Text of Glossary of Terms

  • Divorce Resource

    Glossary of Terms

  • Glossary

    (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.

    Address for


    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.

  • Adversarial

    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

    & non-adversarial).



    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

    Commonwealth Law.



    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

    Protection Order

    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.

    Airport watch


    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.

  • Alternative




    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.

    Application for


    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.


    deposit funds

    Funds which can accept deposits of superannuation benefits

    which must by law be preserved until retirement.



    (Family Law


    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



    and Agents

    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.

    Authorised civil


    A person, other than a minister of religion, authorised to perform


  • Authorised


    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.

    Balance of


    An objective test applied by the courts to each party's

    circumstances to establish who is more inconvenienced with

    having to travel to court.

    Balance of


    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.