Glossary of Terms

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The following is a useful glossary of family law related terms used in Scotland:



Removing a child without authority of parents or others having parental rights and responsibilities


Contact with children is often referred to as “access”. The term “access” has not been used by the Courts since the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 came into force. The Courts are now asked to make an award of “contact” with a child. That is time a child is to spend with parents, family members or other interested parties that the child does not live with.


An Actuary is a type of accountant who can carry out valuations of assets such as pensions.


Correcting, changing or expanding on the written arguments of the parties in a Court action such as a divorce.


A person commits adultery if they have a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse at any time after the date of their marriage and before the date of divorce. Adultery is “an immediate ground” for divorce.


Adoption results in an adult being given the role of parent to a child under sixteen years of age. Adoption ends the role of a biological parent as the parent to the child (unless the adult adopting the child is a step-parent in which case they only take the place of the mother or father). Adoption ends the child’s right to inherit from the biological parent.

Advice & Assistance

Advice & Assistance is a form of Legal Aid for work undertaken by Solicitors before raising Court proceedings. This includes attempts to negotiate an amicable agreement on the matters in dispute between parties to avoid Court proceedings. In the event Court proceedings do require to be raised a Civil Application for Legal Aid must be made.


An Affidavit is a written sworn statement of the evidence a party or witness would have give in Court if it was necessary for them to go to Court to give oral evidence. It is perjury to lie in an Affidavit. Affidavits are often used as evidence in uncontested divorce actions.


Couples often reach agreement as to the care arrangements for the children and financial matters following their separation. The agreement reached is set down in a written document which is usually called a “Minute of Agreement” or a “Separation Agreement”. The Minute of Agreement should provide a full and final settlement of all financial claims arising from the parties’ relationship. The agreement can also provide for the arrangements for the care of the children. The Minute of Agreement is a legally binding contract between the parties. It is usually registered in the Books of Council and Session. An agreement that has been registered for “execution” is the equivalent of a Court Decree in respect of any provisions for payment of money.


Child Parents have an obligation to maintain their children. If a child has his principal home with one parent the parent with whom the child does not reside will have an obligation to pay aliment to the parent with whom the child does reside. Aliment is a sum of money paid weekly or monthly to maintain that child until the child is eighteen years old and is in full-time education. Parents have an obligation to maintain their children until they are twenty-five years old and in full-time education. A parents’ obligation to aliment their children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old is payable to the child and not the other parent. Spousal Spouses have an obligation to support one another during the marriage. Spousal aliment is a monthly payment one spouse may claim from the other between separation and divorce. The amount of spousal aliment is assessed on the claiming party’s reasonable needs and the paying party’s ability to pay.

Anti-Avoidance Order

An order made by a court (and there has to be a good reason given) to stop someone getting rid of money or property or for them to give it back or to explain to the court and account for the financial arrangements involved, to avoid a person entitled to receive money or property being deprived of it.

Anti-Nuptial Agreement

An Anti-Nuptial Agreement is an agreement entered into by couples before their marriage. This is often referred to as a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. An Anti-Nuptial Agreement is designed to be a binding contract to make provision for what will happen to certain assets that the parties own in the event of their separation.


An Appeal is an argument to the Court to change or cancel a decision made by a lower Court or Sheriff. An Appeal is usually lodged where one party believes that the Court has made a mistake in granting the order by not taking into account the factual information presented or has erred in law.

Arrest (Power Of)

Powers of Arrest are often attached to interdicts (see definition of interdicts under I). The Power of Arrest entitles the police to arrest a person without a “warrant to arrest” if they are considered to be in breach of the interdict.


Is money or property taken from or kept aside for payment whether because of a court order or following-up on a “registered minute of agreement or separation agreement”.

Arrestment on Dependence

To (temporarily) stop a person shifting or getting rid of money or property until the Court determines the financial matters between the parties to a Court action.