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Divorce: an A to Z guide of legal terms

For many people a brush with the law can present them with terminology and phrases often used by lawyers that can leave people bewildered. Below is as a whistle stop A to Z guide of some terms that for us lawyers are second nature but may be unfamiliar to most. This short article will hopefully explain some of the terms you may come across during the legal process.

Action – An action comes into being when one person brings a claim against another person by applying to the Court.

Bailiff – The Bailiff is, among other things, the President of the Royal Court (Chief Justice).

Conveyance – This is the name for carrying out the actions needed to transfer the ownership of a piece of land.

Decree – An order of the Court in proceedings commenced by petition (see below). For example a Decree Absolute dissolves a marriage.

Executor – The name given to a person who has been appointed to administer the provisions of a persons will.

Filing – The process of delivering or presenting forms and other documents to a Court.

Greffier – A person appointed by the Bailiff to help administer the legal system and to hear cases that may not require the assistance of the Royal Court. For example a majority of private family cases, such as divorce and children contact issues are heard by the Registrar and Deputy Registrar in the Family division of the Royal Court. Greffier is a French term often translated into English as Registrar.

Hypothec – A mortgage or security held by a person against a person’s immovable property.

Injunction – A Court Order that stops a person carrying out a course of action, such as selling property.

Joint tenancy – A type of ownership where two or more people equally share ownership of a property. Upon the death of any owner, the survivor takes ownership of their interest in the property.

Knock for knock – An agreement made between two insurance companies to avoid legal action. They will pay for their own policy holders’ losses regardless of who was to blame.

Litigation – The process of a dispute being resolved through Court.

Matrimonial causes – The court proceedings used to divorce a married couple and deal with their finances.

Non-molestation – An order to prevent one person abusing another.

Ouster – An order to force a person to leave a property.

Petition – A method of commencing proceedings, usually seen in relation to divorce, whereby the order required by the person applying (the petitioner) to the Court is expressed as a prayer, e.g. the petitioner therefore prays that the marriage be dissolved.

Quantum – In a claim for damages the amount to be determined by the Court.

Remedy – Using the law (legal remedy) to get compensation or other relief for damage done or rights infringed.

Striking out – The Court can strike out a case, preventing all further proceedings, if a party fails to comply with Court directions.

Tort – Tort is a civil wrong (as opposed to a criminal act) committed against a person for which compensation may be sought through the Court.

Undertaking – A promise to the Court to do something. A Court can imprison you if you fail to comply with your promise.

Viscount’s department – The department that carries out orders on behalf of the Court, such as serving legal documents on members of the public as well as other general Court decision enforcement duties.

Will – This is a declaration of a person’s intentions as to the distribution of his/her estate and assets upon their death.

Ex-parte – Okay this doesn’t start with X but there are not many legal terms that do. This is where only one party makes an application to the Court and an interim order is made without the other party to the proceedings being present.

Young offender – A person who commits a criminal act who is between the ages of 10 and 21. The age of criminal responsibility in Jersey is 10 or over.

Zzz – There are no legal terms that begin with the letter Z, but its probably what you will be doing after having waded through all the legal terms that you might come across as you are led through the legal process by your Lawyer. 

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