As you go through the divorce process, you must make several very important decisions. To make these decisions, you will need to have a clear understanding of the legal and practical implications involved. But, understanding everything you need to know can be challenging—as even the terminology involved is unfamiliar to most spouses.

12 Key Terms to Know When Preparing for a Divorce in Illinois

With this in mind, we’ve prepared a glossary of the key terms you need to know when going through a divorce in Illinois. You can use this glossary to become familiar with the terms you’ll need to know as you navigate your divorce. Once you have the terminology down, everything else will make much more sense, so we encourage you to use this as a resource as you begin preparing for the process:

1. Agreed Divorce

In an agreed divorce (also referred to as an uncontested divorce), the spouses work together to find a mutually agreeable path forward. They do not have to be in complete agreement from the outset, but they have to be willing to work together to reach a compromise that allows them to finalize their divorce without mediation or litigation.

2. Alimony

Alimony (also referred to as spousal support) is a form of financial support that one former spouse pays to the other after their divorce is final. In Illinois, there are four types of alimony: (i) temporary alimony (which is actually paid during the divorce process); (ii) fixed-term alimony; (iii) reviewable alimony; and (iv) permanent (or indefinite) alimony.

3. Allocation of Parental Responsibility

What used to be referred to as child custody is now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibility. Divorcing parents in Illinois must develop a plan for allocating parenting time and parental decision-making authority, and they must do so while considering Illinois’s “best interests” factors.

4. Child Support

Divorcing parents must also address child support when ending their marriage. In Illinois, both parents must financially support their children until they reach age 18 (in most cases). While divorcing parents have a significant amount of flexibility when it comes to calculating alimony and allocating parental responsibility, child support calculations are more structured—and must follow the Illinois Child Support Guidelines in most cases.

5. Equitable Distribution

Property distribution is a key aspect of all divorces. In Illinois, divorcing spouses must divide their marital property in an ” equitable manner.” What constitutes an equitable distribution varies from one couple’s circumstances to the next. While a 50-50 split may be equitable in some cases, in others, Illinois’s equitable distribution law will call for an unequal division of the couple’s marital property.

6. Judgment

The court presiding over the couple’s divorce proceedings will issue a judgment at the end of the divorce process. This judgment will formally end (or dissolve) the couple’s marriage. While this is the final step in most cases, divorced spouses occasionally need to deal with post-judgment matters.

7. Litigation

If divorcing spouses are unable to reach an agreement on all aspects of their divorce (whether through negotiations or mediation), they will need to take their divorce to court. The process of resolving parties’ differences in court is referred to as litigation. While divorce litigation is relatively uncommon, it will sometimes prove necessary.

8. Marital Property

Illinois’s equitable distribution law only applies to a couple’s marital property. Generally speaking, an asset qualifies as marital property if acquired between the date of marriage and the date of divorce. However, there are some exceptions, and assets that one spouse owns before their marriage can become marital property in some cases. Likewise, certain assets may qualify as one spouse’s separate property even if they were acquired during the marriage.

9. Mediation

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that divorcing spouses can use to resolve their differences without (or before) going to court. In mediation, the spouses work with a neutral third-party mediator who offers solutions to help them come to terms. Divorcing spouses can mediate one or more aspects of their divorce, and if mediation proves unsuccessful, they can choose to end the process and pursue divorce litigation.

10. No-Fault Divorce

Illinois is purely a “no-fault” divorce state. Previously, spouses could file for divorce based on adultery and certain other fault-based grounds. Illinois’s “no-fault” divorce law is designed to help streamline the divorce process, and it allows either spouse to file for divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” at any time.

11. Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

In many cases, divorcing spouses’ retirement accounts will be among their most substantial assets. To divide a retirement account during the divorce process, obtaining a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is necessary. This formal legal document instructs the retirement account custodian to divide the account as agreed between the spouses, and that also protects this division from becoming taxable as an “early distribution.”

12. Separate Property

Separate property is the opposite of marital property. Assets that one spouse owns proper to the date of marriage will remain that spouse’s separate property in most cases, and they will not be subject to division during the divorce process. However, as with marital property, there are some exceptions. For example, commingled separate funds can become marital assets, and inheritances and certain gifts received during the marriage can qualify as one spouse’s separate property.

Request a Free Initial Consultation with Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

If you are ready to learn more about the divorce process in Illinois, your next step is to schedule an initial consultation with a divorce lawyer. Gurnee, IL, divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen has over 20 years of experience guiding spouses through the divorce process. To request a free, no-obligation consultation with Ms. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or fill out our online contact form today.