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What Is Ancillary Relief?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 21 December 2014
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Ancillary relief is relief provided by a court when a person files a petition in the wake of another legal matter, usually a divorce. In a simple example, a person filing for divorce can also request ancillary relief in the form of child support to help pay for the care of a child. This relief is considered “ancillary” or secondary because it is dependent on another legal matter; if the divorce was not granted, there would be no need for relief.

While this term is often used to mean financial relief in the form of asset reallocation, child support, or alimony, ancillary relief is actually broader than this. It can also include matters like deciding on custody arrangements for a child or providing other legal orders for the conduct of both parties after the divorce. The goal is to address the primary matter with the divorce petition, and to cope with additional concerns through petitions for ancillary relief.

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People can also request ancillary relief when they file petitions to nullify a legal relationship, treating it as though it did not exist on the grounds that it was not valid when it was created. If people can show that they have financial or other connections as a result of their operating relationship, even though it is treated like it didn't exist, they may be entitled to ancillary relief. For example, when people annul a marriage, they may hold property in common or have children, and the court can step in to provide assistance on deciding how these issues should be handled.

The scope of ancillary relief varies by jurisdiction. In some regions, the matter of fault is considered, and someone considered at fault may have to pay damages. In others, no fault is attributed and the court focuses on the most fair division of assets and responsibilities. People may argue that their contributions to the marriage entitle them to compensation, as seen when a stay-at-home parent asks for alimony and child support from the other parent after a separation.

When people request ancillary relief, the court reviews the petition and makes an order on the basis of arguments made. In some cases, people meet before taking the matter to court to work out an agreement they think is fair and reasonable, and present this in court as a petition. The judge can approve the agreement and issue a court order to finalize it, allowing both parties to move on with their lives after the divorce.

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