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In English law, an application for financial relief following the presentation of a petition for divorce, nullity or judicial separation is described as ancillary relief. The term arises because the financial application is 'ancillary' to the petition.
The courts powers derive in large part from the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and in particular section 25(2) which sets out the statutory checklist of factors that should be taken into account. The court can order lump sum payments, property adjustment orders (e.g. requiring a property is transferred into the ownership of a husband or wife), periodical payments (known as 'maintenance') and (from 2000) pension sharing orders.
Maintenance orders can be given on nominal or specific terms. Nominal orders operate on the basis that if the court makes no order for maintenance (known as "periodical payments") at the time of the final order, it cannot later come back and make an order. If, on the other hand, it makes an order, it can later vary it. This is why an order for periodical payments at the rate of 5 pence per year (the usual nominal order) is known as a nominal order - it gives the recipient the right to come back and make an application for a substantive monthly sum at a later date.
Following a 1984 amendment, the court is obliged to consider whether the parties' financial relationship should be terminated ('clean break').
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