Family Law Terminology You Need To Know

Family Law Terminology - Hickman Family Lawyers Perth

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Here at Hickman Family Lawyers, we understand that legal jargon can be confusing. So we’ve compiled an overview of some of the most commonly used family law terminology you need to know.

Being able to understand the divorce process from start to finish will help to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to get through this stressful time, without having to worry about words and phrases you may not have come across before.

Family Law Terminology You Need To Know


When a court hearing or event is postponed to a later date.


An affidavit is a written statement of facts by a party or witness in a case. It must be signed in the presence of someone who is authorised to witness affidavits, such as a lawyer or Justice of the Peace.


An appeal is a procedure which allows you to challenge the decision made by a court. You would normally appeal a court’s decision or ruling if the Court has made an error when they made a particular decision.


An applicant is the person who applies to a court for orders. An example would be if you applied for a divorce through the court, you would be considered the applicant.


When you make an application to a court for a decision, that is referred to as the case before the court.

Child Support

Child support is the monetary support provided for children by parents who do not live together. A formula is used by Services Australia to determine how much child support is payable per child.

Consent Order

A consent order is a written agreement that is approved and formalised by the Court as a legally binding Court Order. Consent orders usually cover the parenting arrangements for children of separating couples, and financial arrangements.

Contravention Application

A contravention application can be made to seek a finding that a party has breached a Court Order. It can also include various remedies or penalties to that party. 

De Facto Relationship

A de facto relationship is a relationship between two persons who are not legally married to each other but live together and are considered to have a domestic relationship. A de facto relationship can exist between two persons no matter what their gender.

Divorce Order

This is an order made by the Court that officially ends a marriage. A divorce order becomes final one month and one day after it is made, unless it is shortened by order of the Court.

Enforcement Order

An enforcement order is an order made by a court to make a party or person comply with an order. These could be sought if someone breaches an existing order. A person breaches an order if they deliberately don’t comply with it or have not made any reasonable attempts to comply with the order.

Family Dispute Resolution

Family dispute resolution is a process where Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners (“FDRP’s”) assist people who are ending their relationships to resolve issues related to the ongoing care of their children and/or financial matters.

Family Law Registry

The family law registry is a public area at a Family Court where you can get information about the court and how it works.

Family Violence Order

A family violence order can be sought and obtained in order to protect a person from family violence. It is also known as restraining order or VRO.


Filing is the process of lodging an application or other document with a registry of the Court. You can do this by hand, post, or most commonly, electronically.

Financial Agreement

If you can come to a mutual agreement about your financial affairs when you divorce or separate, you can put in place a financial agreement. This is a binding document legally, and helps you come to an agreement without having to rely on the courts to make a decision for you.

Independent Children’s Lawyer

If needed, an independent children’s lawyer can be appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child. They will form an independent view of the child’s best interests, and to present those views to the court, rather than having only the lawyers of the separated parties representing the child’s interests.

Maintenance Order

This is when a court order is made to instruct one parent to pay a set amount to the other parent to support them and any children financially. The amount is determined after the court takes into account all necessary expenses related to the care of the child, each parent’s earning potential and their ability to seek employment.

Parenting Order

Parenting orders are issued by the court and concern the parenting arrangements for any children involved in your divorce or separation. Parenting orders must be followed. They can be based on a mutual agreement between the parents or decided by the court after a hearing.

Parenting orders are not related to financial and child support issues – they are purely concerned with child care and parenting arrangements.


Defined as an earlier event or action that is used as a guide for future similar circumstances, historical cases and court decisions can set a precedent for current and future cases of the same nature.


A respondent is a party who is called upon when a case is brought to the court. If you are the party filing for divorce, your spouse would be considered the respondent and you would be the applicant.

Spousal Maintenance

Financial support provided to an ex-partner following the breakdown of the relationship is called spousal maintenance. This is related to support for the spouse only – not any children involved.


A subpoena is a court-issued document which requires the person in question to provide evidence to the court for a case, or appear in court in person.


When a court case is in session, all spoken words are usually documented and collated into a transcription for the official court records. You can request a copy of the transcript but you may be required to pay a fee to access them.

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