Glossary of Terms

Legal speak can sometimes feel like another language. That's why Legal Solutions is committed to clear, concise communication. We speak direct, everyday language and ensure everything is explained. However, some legal terms are a fact of life. This glossary will help you understand better.

Family Law

An abbreviation for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

A written statement made under oath (including by affirmation) before an authorised person.

A declaration that a person asserts to be true and correct (but without any reference to God). An affirmation has the same legal effect as an oath.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
A process where an impartial third party (known as a mediator) assists the parties to resolve a dispute by compromise and final settlement (rather than resolving the dispute through a court hearing).

A person who applies to a court for an order, direction or decision.

The act of making a request. Also the name of the document that contains the request.

Certified copy
A copy of a document that had been signed and certified as a true and correct copy by someone who has the legal authority to do so.

Civil union
A civil union is a formalised legal relationship similar to marriage. A couple can enter into a civil union whether they’re same-sex or different sexes.

Conflict of interest
A real or perceived incompatibility between a person’s private interests and their public duty.

Contact arrangements
Rights of a person who doesn’t have day-to-day care of a child to spend time with the child.

Contracting out agreement
An agreement made between the partners, or a partner and a deceased partner’s personal representative, under section 21, section 21A or section 21B of the Property Relationships Act with respect to the status, ownership and division of their property, for the purpose of contracting out of the provisions of the Property Relationships Act.

A lawyer

Court order
A formal direction from the court requiring a person to do or not do certain things.

Day-to-day caregiver
Term used to describe the parent with whom the child primarily lives on a daily basis.

De facto Relationship
Under the Relationship Property Act 1976 a relationship between two persons who are both aged 18 or older, who live together as a couple but are not married or in a civil union with one another. The Property Relationships Act 1976 lists a range of matters in section 2D(2) that indicate whether two persons “live together as a couple”.

An order made by a judge in relation to the conduct of a proceeding.

An order formally ending (‘dissolving’) a marriage or civil union. Commonly referred to as a ‘divorce’.

See “Dissolution”

The various things presented in court to prove an alleged fact, including written or spoken testimony from witnesses, and other material such as documents, photographs, maps and videotapes.

Items of evidence used during a trial. These can be photos, statements, diagrams, weapons, or any relevant object or material.

Family Court
A division of the District Court that was established under the Family Court Act 1980 as a place where people living in New Zealand could receive assistance with family problems.

Formally lodging an application or other document at court.

The date set down for a substantive court hearing.

Guardian (of a child)
Being a guardian of a child means having all duties, powers, rights and responsibilities that a parent has in bringing up the child.

A legal proceeding where an issue of law or fact is tried and the parties present evidence and submissions to the court.

Interim order
A temporary court order.

Justice of the peace (JP)
An official who can exercise some judicial powers. JPs can witness signatures on documents, take oaths and affirmations, and issue search warrants. They also usually preside over preliminary hearings in criminal cases, and they hear and decide some minor traffic cases.

Legal aid
Government funding to pay for legal help for people who cannot afford a lawyer.

See “Alternative Dispute Resolution”.

A solemn declaration, accompanied by swearing to God, that one’s statement is true before a person who has authority to administer it.

A formal direction from the court.

Parenting order
An order made by the Family Court which describes the care arrangements for a child, including who has the responsibility for providing the “day-to-day care” of a child (under 16 years of age), and when and how someone else important in the child’s life (usually the other parent) can have “contact” with them. A parenting order can also record the “shared care” of a child.

Persons involved in a court case such as the applicants, appellants, respondents, defendants (who are generally called “parties”).

A case being considered by a court.

Qualifying relationship
A marriage, civil union or de facto relationship of three or more years’ duration.

Relationship property
The property described in section 8 of the Property Relationships Act 1976, which generally includes the family home, family chattels and property acquired during the relationship.

The person against whom an application to the court is made.

Separate property
The property described in section 9 and section 10 of the Property Relationships Act 1976 which is generally any property that is not relationship property and specifically includes any property a partner receives from a third party by way of gift or inheritance.

Service (of documents)
The formal delivery of a legal document to a person who will be affected by it.

Short-term relationship
A relationship of less than three years’ duration, and includes short-term marriages, short-term civil unions and short-term de facto relationships.

Without Notice Application
A Without Notice Application in the Family Court is an application that goes before a Judge without the other side being asked for their views.

Witness (in court)
A person who gives evidence about what they’ve seen, heard or otherwise experienced.


This is a loan where a lender (usually the bank) lends money to the borrower and property is used as collateral. The borrower and the lender enter into an agreement where the borrower receives some or all of the money up front, and repayments are made over a set period of time until the borrowed amount, and interest, is repaid.

Priority amount
A priority amount is the maximum amount, plus interest, the mortgagee (usually the bank) can recover from you before someone else with a security over the property can receive payments. This is usually much higher than the loan amount (1.5x the value of the property) and protects the mortgagee from other security interests eroding theirs. It also allows the lender to increase their lending, without necessarily having to vary their mortgage.

Finance pre-approval
Finance is one of the most common conditions in sale and purchase agreements. Finance pre-approval is where you have been approved by a lender for a certain type of loan, up to a specific amount. This pre-approval can either be conditional, where you will have to meet certain conditions before they will lend to you, or unconditional. Once you have unconditional pre-approval, you are able to confirm your finance condition as satisfied.

LIM Report
Land Information Memorandum – This is all the information the local Council holds on a property including building plans, consents and protected buildings and trees

Settlement day
This is the day you get the keys (or give the keys over) and move in, once the balance of the purchase price has been paid.

This is when you have satisfied all your conditions for the sale or purchase such as Finance and Building Reports. You are now committed to purchase the property but you don’t actually pay the settlement or move in until ‘Settlement Day’. But you can go and take a picture with the ‘SOLD’ sign.

The is the portion of the purchase price you normally pay when you go ‘Unconditional’ (although this can be changed) as a sign of good faith. The amount of deposit is by agreement between the purchaser and the seller. The deposit gets paid first to the Real Estate Agent who holds it for 10 working days and then releases it to the Seller’s Lawyer.

Insurance Certificate of Currency
If you are getting a bank loan to purchase a property, the bank will need one of these. You will need to organise insurance for your new property to start on Settlement Day and ask for a Certificate of Currency noting the bank’s interest and setting out the details of the policy so the bank can make sure that you have insured the property properly

Code of Compliance Certificate
This is a formal certificate issued under section 95 of the Building Act 2004, that building work carried out under a building consent is compliant with that building consent. Do note, some properties won’t have a code of compliance certificates for certain works done, as this was not a requirement before 1993. It is still important to check that any alterations did have consent, and to ensure any future alterations to your property have code of compliance moving forward.

This is the day you walk through the property and check that the property is in the same condition it was in at the time the agreement was signed, and that everything is in working order (including any conditions or repairs that were required). This can be done with the owner or the real estate agent. It is important to do your pre-inspection at least one day before settlement, otherwise the vendor will not be required to fix any new issues discovered. A good rule of thumb – check everything! This includes switches, smoke alarms, power points and heat pumps (make sure they run hot and cold!)

Toxicology report
This is often called the “meth test” condition, although, toxicology reports are not limited to just methamphetamine, they test for other toxic substances that may be present at the property, such as asbestos. The purpose of this condition mitigates the risk of potential adverse health issues, as well as the risk of purchasing a property that may later be deemed contaminated to a level requiring demolition or rebuilding. This testing is usually done by taking swabs at the property. An unsatisfactory toxicology report can allow the purchaser to cancel the agreement. The new standards are 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres for bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, sheds or garages.