Helping You Understand Illinois Family Law

Each profession adopts its own unique language and terms which may not be common knowledge to the general public. Divorce and Family Law are no different. Gwendolyn J. Sterk and the Family Law Group has compiled the following glossary to you to assist you in understanding terms frequently used in our practice. While the glossary is not exhaustive, it is a good reference point if you have a question about language you may find in some of our legal documents. The definitions are simplified in order to provide you a general overview of the term. The terms listed below apply to all of our cases, including those in Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, and Orland Park. Further details, if applicable, will be provided during your case.

Illinois Family Law Glossary

The legal obligation of one spouse to provide support for the other; now known as maintenance and spousal support.
Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities
The division or allocation of responsibilities related to the child(ren) which can include but is not limited to medical care, education, religious training, and extra-curricular expenses.
Investments that will pay a specified amount for a particular period of time.
Refers to a written response prepared by the party against whom a pleading was filed.
A process to bring your case to the Appellate Court if you believe that justice was not served in a lower court.
The filing of a document with the Court saying you want to be heard by the Court.
A means to obtain the fair market value of your property.
The sum total of payments past due for child support or other court-ordered obligations.
Attorney For The Child
Sometimes referred to as a guardian; an attorney appointed for the child to assist the Court in contested cases involving children.
A federal court proceeding generally used to discharge debt.
Capital Gain Tax
A tax imposed upon the increased value of investments.
Child Support
The obligation of parents to contribute to the economic needs of their children.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reform Act, which gives spouses the right to continue medical coverage obtained through the other spouse’s employment, for a specified period of time and at the participant’s cost.
Community Property
A legal term used in nine states that requires judges to equally distribute all property accumulated during the course of a marriage.
Also known as lawyer or attorney, used interchangeably to refer to a person who has passed the state bar requirements and is licensed to practice law.
No longer awarded in Illinois as of January 1, 2016 and has become known as the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Deferred Compensation
A retirement option wherein wages are deferred to also defer taxes to a later date.
Dependency Exemptions
The right to claim minor children as dependents for tax purposes, thereby reducing the total amount of tax paid.
A discovery tool whereby oral testimony is taken of a party or witness under oath, by an attorney of the opposing party.
The right of one party to obtain information from the other party.
Dissolution Of Marriage
Refers to the termination of a marriage, thereby ceasing all rights incident thereto.
Divorce Decree
Also known as a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, the court order terminating the marriage.
Domestic Violence
Also known as domestic abuse, refers to violent acts and inappropriate conduct of one spouse towards the other.
Equitable Division
The power of the court to divide the assets and liabilities of the parties as the court finds to be fair and just.
Exclusive Possession
The right to use and hold property, denying the use of that property by the other party.
Ex Parte
Actions taken by one party without notice to or the presence of the other in court.
The legal basis or reason for the divorce.
Guardian Ad Litem
Also known as the attorney for the minor child, refers to a person appointed to represent the interests of a child, to assist the Court in contested cases involving children.
Home Study
An investigation by a government agency of a parent’s home, background, and conduct; used in disputed cases of child related issues.
In Camera
An interview of the children by a judge, traditionally in a judge’s chambers without the presence of the parents.
A guarantee made by one party toward another that he or she will be responsible for the actions or inactions of the other.
Money or property given to one party following death of another.
A court order prohibiting a person from doing something.
Written questions sent to the opposing party regarding issues and facts relating to the matter before the Court.
Also known as Individual Retirement Account, refers to retirement investments accumulated by an individual.
Joint Custody
Formerly an award of custody to both parents, but is no longer in place in Illinois as of January 1, 2016.
Joint Parenting Agreement
A written agreement granting both parties joint custody of the children and outlining the obligations of both parties but is no longer used in Illinois as of January 1, 2016.
Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage
Also known as divorce decree, refers to the written court order dissolving a marriage.
Legal Separation
A court order setting forth both parties’ rights and obligations while living separate and apart, but not divorced.
The legal obligation of one spouse to provide support for the other, also known as alimony or spousal support.
Marital Property
Property that was accumulated during the course of the marriage.
Marital Residence
The dwelling the family resided in prior to the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The term does not necessarily mean that the residence is marital property.
Marital Settlement Agreement
The written agreement of the parties in a divorce distributing property and setting forth the obligations of both parties.
The use of a third party, who attempts to assist the parties in reaching a settlement of the issues involved in the divorce.
Non-marital Property
Property that may have been purchased during the marriage, but which is not considered marital property because the acquisition of same was through the use of premarital property.
The commands of the Court upon the parties of the case.
Order Of Protection
A court order often used in domestic violence cases prohibiting a spouse from certain conduct toward the other spouse such as harassment, physical abuse, and intimidation. This is often referred to as a stay away order.
Parenting Time
The schedule as to when a child will have time with each parent and was formerly known as Visitation.
Retirement benefits paid to a spouse upon certain events.
Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage
Also known as a Petition or Complaint for Divorce, wherein a party seeks a court order dissolving a marriage, distributing the parties’ assets, and resolving issues regarding the parties’ children.
Petition For Rule To Show Cause
A pleading filed with the court seeking for a party to be held in contempt of court for failure to obey a court order.
Written documents filed with the court or orders entered by the Judge.
Premarital Property
Property accumulated by a spouse prior to the marriage.
Prenuptial Agreement
Also known as an antenuptial agreement, refers to a written agreement signed by both parties prior to the marriage that allocates the rights of property and maintenance in the event of divorce.
Pretrial Conference
A conference held with the Judge and the parties’ attorneys wherein the court seeks to attempt to settle the case or alternatively to limit the issues at trial.
Profit Sharing Retirement Plan
A retirement fund established by many businesses for the benefit of their employees.
Pro Se
Representing yourself in court without an attorney and is now known as an unrepresented litigant.
Psychological Evaluations
Also referred to as psychiatric evaluations, refers to the use of a professional to evaluate the family and the parties’ minor children to assist the court in making its decisions regarding custody and visitation.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order
An order entered by the court to transfer retirement benefits of one spouse to another, usually payable upon the retirement date of the employee.
Qualified Medical Child Support Order
An order entered by the Court commanding the insurance provider to provide information to and to deal directly with the custodial or residential parent of the minor children.
Referral Fee
A fee paid by one attorney to another attorney for a referral of a client.
The order entered by a Judge after hearing the evidence presented by the parties.
Service Of Process
The right to be provided notice that a case has been filed.
Spendthrift Spouse
A spouse who wastes marital assets.
A legal notice to appear or produce certain documents.
Temporary Order
A court order setting forth obligations for a specific period of time or prior to the entry of the divorce.
A party’s affirmation that the facts and allegations outlined in the body of a pleading are true and correct to the best of the party’s knowledge.

If you still have questions about Cook County family law, Will County family law, and DuPage County family law, we can help. Call us at 815-600-8950 or contact us online today.