Family Law Blog

Misconceptions in legal lingo

Posted by on 5 Aug 2011

One of my favourite TV shows is QI, it’s fantastic. Add Stephen Fry to a mix of 4 comedians, one of whom is a core ingredient, Alan Davies, along with a batch of general questions and watch for 25 minutes. The result is guaranteed to be absolutely delightful and mentally challenging.

For those familiar with the show, it is a well known fact that one of the reasons the show is so stimulating is because it addresses many misconceptions and misunderstandings that have hazily hovered in the recesses of our minds until they took the form of influential illusions.

In the labyrinth of Law there exist familiar phrases of the kind the French like to call ‘faux amis’ or false friends. Those illusive terms that seem to give legal lingo its fluency.

In Family Law there exist quite a few but I will only cover three of the most common. 

  1. Divorce – You are probably thinking this is a bit of an anticlimax; every one knows what divorce is, after all statistics show that 1 out of 3 marriages end with it. So if it hasn’t happened to you chances are you can name two others it happened to provided you know a minimum of 6 adults or thereabouts.

    However the term Divorce specifically means the termination of a marriage. It does not include settlement of property and parenting issues, nor does settlement of those issues always go hand in hand with divorce.

    For instance did you know that you can settle property and parenting issues before applying for or obtaining a Divorce?

  2. Now talking about parenting issues, ask your minimum of 6 adults or thereabouts (provided they have children under 18) what is the most touted term in children’s matters this side of the century and if they do not mention “best interests of the child” hold your breath for their next answer “equal shared parental responsibility”.

    Another false friend, Equal Shared Parental Responsibility contrary to popular opinion does NOT mean equal shared time for the parents to spend with the children. Equal shared time on the other hand has successfully squeezed past the Plain English barrier so as to be called – Equal shared time. No prizes there.

  3. Finally once the ex-partners and parents have navigated down the highway of separation and settlement, those who have successfully managed to still end up on talking terms with their ex might think “why go to court?” and why indeed. For those who have come this far, the phrase that can become their next best friend is “Consent orders”. Relatively unknown, Consent orders are in a nutshell a way of turning an informal agreement into a set of court orders, with their potential to safeguard against future breaches without the need for either party to enter into a court building.

While the above is not a comprehensive list, it along with the other articles in this blog attempts to assist people to differentiate between their legal lingo and their general jargon as they start, pass or end the chapter in life that I like to title “The Who’s Who in Separation and Beyond.”