Language matters

The language of the Family Court: suggestions for change.

Language for separating families has evolved out of an adversarial legal system: it is accusatory and divisive. It is also potentially harmful, increasing conflict through battle metaphors while parents compete for justice and control of their children.
Appropriate language is needed through every part of a family’s separation: at the school gate, with their wider family and friends, in the media, on government websites, with support services and throughout any legal process.

Current languageSuggested alternatives
Case titles and headings: Shah v Shah (including in case reports)The family of Ali Shah and Keri Shah, with child/ren Casper Shah and Yasmin Shah etc Documents to list family names with ‘and’ as the conjunctive not ‘between’ or ‘vs’
How people are named:
Applicant & Respondent Husband/H  & Wife/W Mother/M & Father/F
Participant A & Participant B
Alternative: participant choice.
Party/PartiesIn children proceedings ‘Parents’
In finance proceedings ‘Participants’
‘Family members’ for those who aren’t parents,
AcronymsAvoid wherever possible. If not, define clearly for all participants
Non-Court Dispute Resolution options (NCDR)Non-Court Resolution
DisputeIssue/problem to be resolved
LodgeSend to
SealCourt stamp or Court approval
Special arrangements/ reasonable adjustmentsPractical arrangements to protect or support participants
BundleHearing documents
Hearing folder
Pleadings (in bundle indexes)Court documents, or forms, or statements
Case summary and ChronologyCase summary and key dates
Position Statement‘Summary for judge’ or ‘Hearing summary’
‘Approach’ – The approach taken by [name]
OrdersOrders (the same!)
Language used – children
Contact‘A child’s time with a parent’ or ‘Parent time’
‘Family time’ or ‘Time with mum’ and ‘Time with dad’
ResidenceA child’s home with a parent
Non-resident parent[Child name] lives mostly with mum/dad/grandparent etc
‘Live with’ orderDay to day care and responsibilities
Section 7 report‘Social worker recommendation for court about child arrangements’ or ‘social worker recommendation’
First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA)First Hearing
Dispute Resolution AppointmentResolution Hearing
Final/Contested hearingDecision Hearing
Language used – finance
Form E section 4 – ‘bad behaviour’Just refer to ‘conduct relevant to financial matters’
PrayerOrders requested
First AppointmentAdministrative hearing
Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR)Resolution Hearing (emphasis on settlement rather than dispute)
Final/Contested hearingDecision Hearing
Section 25 statementFinal financial statement

Table adapted from Family Solutions Group document.