A Glossary of Divorce Terms

Divorce is a common legal process that many couples will have to go through. However, as with many legal proceedings, the terminology can often form an unnecessary obstacle to people’s understanding it. This glossary of divorce terms should help people cut through the legal jargon to understand what is going on in their own divorce case.


Alimony, also known as spousal support, is the legal term for money that one spouse pays to the other based on a variety of factors. These payments recently underwent a change in order to make alimony payments more uniform over different situations.

Child Support

Child support is a similar concept to alimony in that it is a payment from a parent to a child in order to keep them comfortably supported. However, it is based on the notion that children are owed financial support by their parents, even in cases where the two parents’ marriage has ended.

Child Custody

Child custody is the legal authority to have control over the child. Custody is broken down into two different parts, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the authority of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, and physical custody is the ability to actually take care of the children and have physical control over them. Custody can also be distinguished by whether it is sole or joint. Sole custody is the situation where one parent has complete custody, while joint custody exists in situations where the parents each share control of the child.

Fault Divorce

Fault divorce is a divorce in which one member of the couple has a reason to seek a divorce, such as adultery or drug abuse. Fault divorce is distinguished from no-fault divorce, or divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Importantly, a divorce’s being based on fault is less important than it used to be because Illinois courts no longer look at fault for purposes of property division. However, fault divorce may be important for issues of child custody if the reason for divorce could have implications for the child’s well-being.

Marital Property

Marital property is the total property that gets divided up during a divorce. Marital property, generally speaking, is all property that either spouse acquires after the marriage begins, with some exceptions. The most notable of these exceptions are gifts and devises, meaning that property that one spouse either gets as a gift or inherits does not qualify as marital property.


Mediation is a newer form of divorce resolution. Unlike more formal divorce proceedings in front of a judge, meditations take place in front of a neutral mediator who has no authority to make final decisions. Instead, the mediator attempts to move people closer to a settlement that both sides can agree on.

Divorce is a complex legal proceeding, but the right attorney can simplify it. If you are considering divorce, and have questions, contact a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer today.