Illinois Family Law Glossary

Divorce, child custody disputes, and other family law issues are emotionally charged issues that are life-changing for everyone involved.

Illinois family laws may differ somewhat from those in other states, and they are constantly being revised. For example, on January 1, 2016, Illinois became a trendsetter by changing terms like “custody” and “visitation” in divorce and parentage cases, and in 2013, the state legislature legalized same-sex marriage.

Laws are complex, and it is easy to become confused when dealing with legal terminology.  In order to avoid making mistakes and complicating matters, it makes sense to consult an experienced family law attorney to help you through this difficult time.

The experienced and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to clarify and resolve the issues they are facing in the most effective and efficient manner. Whether you need advice about a divorce or a child-custody issue, we offer a free consultation to help you find the best solution for your individual situation.

The following is a family law glossary to help you familiarize yourself with some common family law terms you are likely to encounter.

  • Ab Initio: Latin for “from the beginning.” Some judgments can be found void ab initio if entered incorrectly.
  • Affadavit: A written statement made under oath.
  • Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance: A payment of support from one spouse to another that is not child support. It is intended to equalize the incomes of both parties and allow them to continue the lifestyle of the marriage.
  • Annulment:A judgment from a court under certain limited circumstances that invalidates a marriage as if it never took place.  Annulments are not common and usually involve fraud.
  • Appeal: When the losing party in a case requests that a higher court of appeals review the decision to see if the original trial court misapplied the law.
  • Arrearages: When child or spousal support has not been paid, and accumulates.
  • Adoption: Legal process in which a child’s legal rights and duties toward the natural parents are terminated and are replaced by rights and duties toward adoptive parents. Illinois Adoption Laws include areas such as who may be adopted, the age of consent for adoption, and home residency requirements.
  • Child Support: Illinois requires all parents to support their children. The amount depends primarily on each parent’s income and other resources and how much time each parent spends with the children.
  • Custody: In Illinois, the term custody has been replaced by Parental Responsibility. Instead of making a determination of who has joint or sole custody, each parent now has “parental responsibility” for making decisions for the child.  One parent may still have most of the decision-making responsibilities, or these responsibilities may be split between the parents in the major life areas such as education, health, and religious upbringing. The standard for custody is “best interest of the child.”
  • Deposition: The taking and recording of the testimony of a party or witness under oath before a court reporter that takes place outside of the courtroom before trial.
  • Dissolution: The legal end of a marriage, the divorce.
  • Domestic Abuse or Violence: When one family member commits violence against another.  If you are in danger, seek legal help and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • Guardian Ad Litem: A court-appointed attorney who represents a minor child, usually when there are charges of abuse or neglect.
  • Marital Property: The property acquired during the marriage, even if it is not titled in both names, with some exceptions.
  • Orders of Protection: Commonly called “restraining orders,” these are court orders intended to protect one individual by restricting access by another individual. These orders are often needed for victims of domestic violence or those threatened or stalked by former spouses.
  • Paternity: The establishment of paternity – who is the natural father — allows a father to enforce his right to be a part of his child’s life.  It also allows a mother to enforce the child’s right to receive financial support, including contribution to medical costs, daycare costs, and education costs.
  • Pendente Lite (PDL): Temporary arrangements for custody, child support, child visitation, maintenance and possession of the family home, etc., until a final disposition in a divorce proceeding. This is sometimes allowed in paternity proceedings as well regarding custody and child support.
  • Pro se: Representing yourself in court without a lawyer. This is never a good idea in a family law matter.
  • Service: Providing a copy of the papers which are being filed to the other side in a conflict. Service typically takes place when the sheriff or a process server actually hands paperwork to the opposing party.
  • Subpoena: A document issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and/or bring documents.
  • Venue: The county where the case is heard.

Contact Us For Help

Family laws, terminology, and guidelines can be difficult to interpret, and making a mistake could mean returning to court and nasty and costly drawn-out battles that adversely affect you and your children. Fortunately, there is help available, and you may find comfort in knowing a lawyer is on your side. The seasoned Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec handle all cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion.

At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There are no ready-made solutions in divorce and family law – every case needs to be considered on its own merit. Our lawyers take the time to delve deeply into the problem and to understand your goals and concerns. Then we develop a legal strategy designed to achieve those objectives.

There is no charge for the first consultation. Delaying can only complicate your situation and make matters worse. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]

Recent Family Law Results

During trial four experts all testified against our client the Judge found it was in the best interest of the child that our client be awarded custody. We have successfully represented clients in numerous child custody cases.

Child Custody

We recently analyzed a case whereby the opposing side was seeking a substantial award of maintenance against our client. After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances and several hearings, our client’s obligation to pay maintenance was limited to two years at half of what his former spouse was seeking.

Alimony (Maintenance/Support)

After our client voluntarily changed employment we were able to obtain a substantial reduction in child support payments. We have also stopped such reductions when representing clients receiving child support.

Child Support
Woodridge Illinois Law Firm

3321 Hobson Road, Suite B
Woodridge, IL 60517
Phone: 630-305-0222

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