Glossary of Terminology

Affidavit: A sworn statement that often appears at the end of a document, usually stating that everything said above it is true to the best of the affiant’s knowledge. Lying in an affidavit can result in a charge of perjury punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.


Alimony (maintenance): Financial support paid to one spouse by another. This support is not for the children, but rather is to maintain the standard of living for the receiving spouse.


Answer: A written response to a petition or motion. An answer generally responds to each allegation in the pleading by denying or admitting it or admitting in part and denying in part.


Appearance: A document that a respondent must file stating their mailing address for service of notices. Filing an Appearance submits a person to the jurisdiction of the court unless an objection to jurisdiction is filed with the Appearance.


Alias Summons: a second summons that is issued by the court when the first attempt to serve a summons was unsuccessful.


Arrearage: Money that the court ordered to be paid which is past due.


Certificates of Attorney: A cover sheet for all civil suits and one for divorce/family cases.


Child Support: A specific amount that one parent pays to the other parent to help support his or her child or children. The amount of child support is usually a percentage of the net income of the parent exercising a minority of the parenting time according to the statutory guidelines as set forth by Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/505).


Circuit: The judicial system in Illinois is divided into circuits. Each circuit defines a geographic area in Illinois. Lake County is the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.


Continuance: A continuance simply means that the case will be continued on another date set by the court.


Default: If the Respondent does not respond to a motion or petition filed by the other party, within the time allowed, the case may proceed by “default.” This means the judge will hear the case even though one party is not present in court.


Discovery: Legal procedures for parties to seek information necessary to prepare their case. Discovery procedures include written questions (interrogatories), oral questioning (deposition), and document production.


Divorce/Dissolution: The legal end of a marriage or civil union. The legal proceedings by which a party ends his or her marriage or civil union, divides property and debt, and determines parental responsibility, support, and parenting time for any minor children.


Docket Number: A number assigned to every case when it is opened by the clerk. This number will appear in the caption of the case and should be on everything that is filed with the court.


Grounds: The reason a party must prove for seeking the dissolution of his or her marriage. In dissolution of marriage proceedings, the only valid grounds are irreconcilable differences.


Hearing: An opportunity for both parties to tell the judge his or her side of a dispute. Failure to appear at a hearing can result in the other side getting the relief they requested. Failure to appear in court after being ordered to appear by the judge can result in arrest for contempt of court.


Irreconcilable Differences: the basis for divorce in Illinois. Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.


Judgment: A final decision or order that the judge decides and signs.


Jurisdiction: Whether the court in a particular state has the power to hear a case or to order someone to do something depends upon whether it has “jurisdiction.” Jurisdiction can be either over a person or over a thing. For a state court to have jurisdiction over a person, generally, the person must either reside in the state, or have committed an act in the state that gave rise to the case or have been personally served with summons in Illinois.


Marital Settlement Agreement: A document that sets out the terms of an agreement between spouses as part of a divorce. Generally, marital settlement agreements discuss items such as property, debts, taxes, child support and related expenses, visitation, and maintenance. If it is made part of a judgment, a marital settlement agreement has the force of law.


Minor: Child under the age of eighteen.


Motion: A written or oral request to the judge after a lawsuit has been started (see petition).


Order: An order of court contains instructions to the parties regarding what they must do. Orders can contain instructions as simple as “the parties will next appear on Feb. 27, 2019,” or command the parties to do___ or to forbid them from doing ____ specifications. Generally, each time you appear in court, the court will order the parties to do something. All orders are kept in the court file.


Parental Responsibilities: Decision-making authority regarding major decisions pertaining to minor children. A court can designate which parent is responsible for making major decisions regarding the care and upbringing of minor children. Parental responsibilities are broken into categories such as education, health, religion, and extra-curricular activities. The Court can allocate the respective responsibilities either jointly or solely to the parent(s).


Parenting Time: The time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect minor children.


Petition: A written request to the court. A petition usually starts a divorce and contains the facts that one person alleges have happened, along with the relief that they are requesting from the court.


Petitioner: The person who files for dissolution of marriage or civil union, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity of marriage. The original petitioning party is referred to as the Petitioner throughout the proceedings, regardless of which party files any other motions or petitions.


Prove Up: The process of finalizing a divorce in front of a judge at an uncontested court hearing. At the prove up, one or both of parties testify regarding the contents of the settlement reached between them.


Respondent: The person against whom the original legal action is being requested. The respondent remains the respondent throughout the case.


Self-Represented Litigant (SRL): A person who is not represented by an attorney and instead chooses to represent himself or herself in pending litigation.


Service: is how a person who you are filing a lawsuit against is notified that a case has been started and told how they can participate in that case by y filing an appearance and responsive pleading or answer. Proper service is important because without it, a court does not have the power to order a party to do anything or resolve the dispute. A party is served when he or she receives a summons. Usually, the Sheriff delivers a summons to a defendant and there is a fee for the service.


Service of Process: The process by which a person is officially notified of a pending lawsuit by being served with any documents that have been filed to initiate the case.


Status Date: A status date means a future date on which the parties will again appear in court to tell the judge what is happening with the case. The court uses these dates to ensure that the case moves efficiently to resolution.


Statute: A law enacted by the state legislature or federal government on a particular subject. The relevant statute for a divorce in Illinois is the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, often referred to as the “IMDMA.”


Subpoena: A court order that requires someone to come to court, appear to testify at a deposition, or provide documents or evidence to the other party.


Summons: A pre-printed legal form that tells a defendant that he or she is being sued. The defendant must file an appearance and responsive pleading or answer within 30 days of being served with the summons.


Temporary Relief: Court orders made before the divorce is finalized. Temporary orders may address any issues that need to be dealt with while a divorce is pending, such as allocation of parenting time or parental responsibilities, child support, maintenance, use of property, and responsibility to pay debt or other expenses.