Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Ancillary Relief Definition:

Secondary relief claimed by a litigant which is subordinate or subservient to a principal claim.

In Gwyn v Mellen, the British Columbia Supreme Court stated as follows:

"What does ancillary mean?

"It is derived from the Latin word for handmaid and the primary meaning, ...  is 'subservient, subordinate (to)'.

"The message the word conveys to me is that a secondary matter or event follows a primary matter or event. The secondary matter or event cannot come into existence until the primary matter or event exists. The servant must first have a master to serve.

"To put it another way, the ancillary matter is something grafted on to the primary matter. In both Ducharme and Needham the primary matter was a divorce decree and the ancillary matter was the order for maintenance which followed pronouncement of the decree. Both courts held that if decree or primary stock was not viable then the shoot grafted to it would die with it."

In British divorce law, relief sought as part of a divorce claim, but apart from the divorce itself, is classified as ancillary, much as that same type of secondary relief is called corollary relief in Canada.

This includes, in England, support, custody and matrimonial property rights.


  • Ducharme 39 DLR 2d 1
  • Gwyn v Mellen, (1978) 90 DLR 3d 191
  • Needham 43 DLR 2d 405

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