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Important Family Law Terms to Know

Rolling Meadows Divorce Attorney

During your divorce, you will likely encounter many new terms you did not know previously. This does not mean you are uneducated; most people who have not gone through a divorce do not know certain terms in and out of court to discuss a couple’s divorce. To help yourself understand the divorce process better, familiarize yourself with the following terms. During your initial meeting with a divorce lawyer, ask about any terms you do not understand and how they relate to your case. The more you know about divorce and its related terms, the better equipped you will be to work collaboratively with your lawyer to advocate for your interests and rights.


The court definition of “party” is a bit less fun than the definition you are used to. In court, each individual is known as a “party.” You are one party and your spouse is another party. Each party has rights in court, such as the right to give their own testimony and the right to secure their own legal representation. A third party may become involved in your case, such as a child custody evaluator. The party who files the divorce petition is known as the petitioner and the other spouse is known as the Respondent.


A formal written document submitted to the court seeking relief is known as a pleading. Types of pleadings include petitions, responses, and motions.


A petition is a specific type of pleading that asks the court to take a certain action to provide specific relief. To have the court open a divorce action, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be filed.


An order is a written decree by a judge. Orders are necessary to state the court’s ruling and provide a guideline for the parties to follow afterward. An order might include a spousal maintenance order, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or a Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage Order, which is the order that officially ends a couple’s marriage.


The discovery process is the process through which the parties involved in a case and the court learn about the circumstances at play. For example, the discovery process might require both parties to discuss their finances and submit financial documents to support their claims. The discovery process may include interrogations, which are written questions that must be answered truthfully, and depositions, which are oral interviews given under oath.


All documents must be filed with the court in order to become official parts of the court record. When you file your divorce petition, your response, and any other relevant documentation with the clerk of the court, the document is stamped with its date of filing to confirm that it is part of the official court record.


A hearing is the process through which a judge hears and reviews the arguments put forth by each party involved in a divorce. You may have to attend multiple hearings before your divorce is finalized.

Pendente Lite

Pendente lite arrangements are temporary arrangements made prior to the court’s final hearing. A pendente lite arrangement may be made for spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time and responsibilities, and occupation of the marital home. These arrangements are made to create some order and avoid financial difficulty for the divorcing parties and their children while their divorce is pending.


When the court issues an order, it must be obeyed. Deliberately disobeying a court order is known as contempt of court and it can lead to civil or even criminal charges. One prominent example of this is failure to pay one’s ordered child support, which can result in wage garnishment, seizure of the individual’s tax return, liens against his or her property, and the suspension of his or her driver’s license.

Work with an Experienced Rolling Meadows Family Lawyer

Speak with an experienced Rolling Meadows divorce lawyer to learn more about the terms you will encounter during your divorce. Contact the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley to schedule your initial consultation with Mr. Cosley, during which he will take a closer look at the details of your case to give you personalized legal advice about taking the next steps in your divorce.

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