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If you’re involved in a family law proceedings, make sure you know the language that is used! Amelia Smith is a Trainee Solicitor in the Family Team here at Wollens and has put together this helpful guide

What is the Family Solutions Group? – It is a multi-disciplinary group with practical experience of working with separated parents and their child/ren. It was set up by a High Court Judge in 2020.

What has the group most recently been working on? – Over the past 3 months, the group has been holding ‘language matters’ workshops where 400 professionals, including solicitors and judges, were asked to share words that they considered most harmful to family relationships.

What were considered harmful words and why? – entitlement, custody, 50/50, judgment, primary carer, fight, access, rights, my client, and the applicant. This is because it is considered ‘fighting talk’ which potentially escalates family problems and subsequently puts children at risk due to the increase in parental conflict. It suggests a tug of war between parents for the control of the child/ren. It is considered harmful to children and unhelpful for parents who are trying to find a resolution.

What language would be better to use? – words such as collaboration, problem-solving, togetherness, our children, co-parenting and referring to the parents using their first names.

Has any research been done to support this? –In a recent survey, 86% of 228 participants strongly agreed that plain language instead of legal jargon would help and 76% thought first names rather than the ‘applicant’ or ‘respondent’ were better to use.

What are the professional opinions? – At least 7 out of 10 professionals thought formal guidance from the Court might be needed for language to change.

What is the benefit of changing the language used? – it is hoped that using more positive language will create a sense of togetherness for the parents and subsequently they may feel that they can work together to achieve an outcome best for their child/ren. It may assist the parents in seeing that it is a matter of working together rather than against each other. It is hoped to reduce bitterness and aid cooperation.

How we can help

At Wollens our family law team understand why it is importance of positive language and are here to help you to navigate  legal proceedings. We can advise you at an early stage.

Contact Amelia  today : [email protected] 

[email protected] 

Call us :

South Devon      01803 213521

Exeter                 01392 274006

North Devon       01271 342268

Amelia Smith 

Trainee Solicitor at Wollens

Contact Amelia [email protected] 

Family law