Glossary of Terms

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



Means someone, not the applicant person’s spouse or partner who is a “third party” to the proceedings with whom it is alleged there has been an amorous “association”.

Parental Rights & Responsibilities

These are listed in sections 1 and 2 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Parents who have Parental Rights and Responsibilities have certain legal rights in relation to their child/children. Parental rights are given to parents in order that they may fulfil their parental responsibilities so the two are intrinsically linked. Mothers and married fathers automatically have full parental rights and responsibilities in respect of a child, as do unmarried fathers, who are named on a child's birth certificate where the child was born after 1 May 2006.


Is a person involved in a case. For example, a Pursuer or Defender.

Party litigant

A person who conducts their case personally rather than through a solicitor.

Pension Share

Where you receive a share of your husband or wife’s pension upon divorce.

Periodical Allowance

This is the term used in Scotland to refer to money paid by one spouse to their former husband or wife upon divorce.


This is the main document in divorce proceedings. It contains factual details, such as the parties’ full names and addresses, the date and place of marriage and brief details of why the marriage broke down. The document also contains a request for the court to dissolve the marriage, and may also contain claims for maintenance, pension-sharing orders and orders concerning other assets of the marriage such as the house.


The party who applies to the court for orders in some types of cases (e.g. Adoption) is known as “The Petitioner”.


Short statements at the end of your Initial Writ, Summons or Defences explaining the legal basis for the orders sought.

Power of Arrest

Empowers the police to arrest a person without an arrest warrant, usually where a person has threatened or committed a violent act.


A previously decided case which is used to help decide further similar cases.


Documents you lodge in court in support of your case.


Is like a criminal “trial” at which evidence is led in front of a Sheriff. At the end of the hearing the Sheriff will make a decision.

Protection From Abuse

Is a generalised term to encompass the laws to do with protection of spouses and partners from violence, and may entitle an applicant “party” to ask the court for measures to restrain or prohibit behaviour complained of.


Is a person who commences court action against someone else (the Defender).