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Explanation of legal terms


A sworn document setting out facts. It is used to give information to the court where oral evidence is not required. Usually an affidavit is used to support an application to the court (when it is called a grounding affidavit) or to prove that a document has been served (when it is called an affidavit of service).

In family law, an affidavit of welfare must be prepared in all divorce applications where there are dependent members of the family. The form of affidavit is set out in the court rules.

An affidavit of means is also required in cases where a financial claim is being made, including a claim to bar succession rights. Again, the form of affidavit is in the rules.

To swear an affidavit, you must bring it to a practising solicitor or commissioner for oaths and sign it in his/her presence and s/he must also sign to witness your signature. There will be a charge for this service.


A formal document served by the defendant/respondent on the plaintiff/applicant informing him/her that he/she intends to defend the case. A copy must be filed in the relevant court office. If no appearance is filed, the plaintiff can apply for judgment in default of appearance.


The person who brings an application before the court. It is also used as an alternative to 'plaintiff'.


A hearing to decide the dates on which cases will be heard by the court.

Case progression hearing

The pre-trial hearing of a family law case before the county registrar to prepare the case for trial.

Circuit Court Office

Circuit Court offices deal with the administration of the Circuit Court. They are open between 10.00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. on normal working days. Many of the documents that pass between the parties in a Circuit Court case must be filed or issued in the Circuit Court office. Offices are usually in the principal courthouse in the county. In Dublin, the Circuit Court Family Law Office is in Phoenix House, Smithfield, Dublin 7. You can locate all Circuit Court offices in the Offices & Maps section of this website.

Civil partners

Two persons of the same sex who are party to a civil partnership registration. 

Civil Partnership Civil Bill

The document that is filed (issued) in the Circuit Court office to start proceedings in the Circuit Court under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.


Two adults (whether of the same or opposite sex) who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship. They must not be related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship or married to each other or civil partners of each other.

Court Rules

These are the general procedural rules used in the courts. They set out the way cases are dealt with. There are separate rules for the District Court, the Circuit Courtand the Superior Courts (that is the High Court and the Supreme Court). They are available on this website in the Rules section and/or can be purchased from the Government Publications Office in Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.


The written order of the court setting out its decision


A formal document delivered by the respondent/defendant to the applicant/plaintiff in response to the family law civil bill or family law summons. It may contain claims against the applicant by the respondent.

Dependent members of the family

Any child of both spouses (or adopted by both spouses or in relation to whom both spouses are in loco parentis) or any child of either spouse (or adopted by either spouse or in relation to whom either spouse is in loco parentis) who is:

  • under the age of 18
  • under the age of 23 and receiving full time education or
  • over 18 but has a mental or physical disability to such extent that it is not reasonably possible for the child to maintain himself or herself fully.


The person who swears an affidavit

District Court Office

District Court offices deal with the administration of the District Court. They are generally open between 10.00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. on normal working days. Many of the documents that pass between the parties in a District Court case must be filed or issued in the District Court office. There are District Court offices in over 40 locations around the country.  In Dublin city, the District Court Family Law Office is in Dolphin House, East Essex Street, Dublin 2. You can locate all District Court offices in the Offices & Maps section of this website.


An exhibit is an original document referred to in, and attached to, an affidavit. The deponent must sign the exhibit in the presence of the solicitor or commissioner for oaths.

Ex parte application

An application to court in the absence of, and without notice to, your spouse or other party.

Family Law Civil Bill

The document that is filed (issued) in the Circuit Court office to start family law proceedings in the Circuit Court.

Family Law Summons

The document that is filed (issued) in the High Court Central Office to start family law proceedings in the High Court.

High Court Central Office

The High Court Central Office deals with the administration of certain business (including family law business) of the High Court. It is located on the ground floor of the Four Courts, Inns Quay, Dublin 7. It is open between 10.00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. on normal working days. Many of the documents that pass between the parties in a High Court case must be filed or issued in the Central Office. You can locate the Central Office in the Offices & Maps section of this website.

In loco parentis

In the place of a parent. A person who is not the parent but assumes the responsibilities of a parent in respect of a particular child.

Judgment in default

A formal decision in favour of the applicant/plaintiff where the respondent/defendant has failed to do something within the proper time limit. It may be in default of appearance or defence.


An application to court for an order that something be done in the applicant's favour. It is usually made on notice to the other side, but sometimes this is not necessary.

Oral evidence

What is said by witnesses to the court in response to questions put on behalf of the parties or by the judge. Generally, all divorce cases must be proved by oral evidence.


The person who starts a case. S/he is sometimes called the 'applicant'.

Record number

The number assigned to the case by the court office. It is shown on the top right hand side of all documents filed in the office and should be quoted in all dealings with the office.


The person against whom a motion is brought. S/he is sometimes called the 'defendant'.

Serve and service

Bringing a case or a document to the attention of the person named in it. In family law proceedings, service is usually by registered prepaid post or by personal service but you should check the relevant court rule. 

To serve a document by registered prepaid post, you send an exact copy (that is a certified true copy) of it to him/her at his/her last known address. To serve a document personally, you hand an exact copy (that is a certified true copy) of it to him/her.

You do not have to serve the documents yourself. This can be done by anyone over the age of 18. The person who served the document must swear the affidavit of service if one is required. In the affidavit s/he must state how, where and when s/he served the document. If it was posted, a certificate of posting from An Post must be exhibited.

Particular rules apply if you want to serve documents in another country.


Husband or wife or former husband or wife.

Stay of execution

The suspension of the operation of a court order or judgment. When making an order or giving a judgment the court can stay execution until such time as it thinks fit.


Page updated: 14 December 2011