Top 5 Illinois Family Law Terms

  1. “GAL” – Guardian Ad Litem. This term refers to a court appointed attorney. This is a third attorney appointed by the Judge who represents the interests of the children in the divorce. This attorney is separate and independent of any attorney either of the parents have on retainer.
  2. “MSA”- Marital Settlement Agreement. This is a legal document that sets out the agreed upon terms of a divorce. It is a legally binding contract that governs all the issues that affect the parties after the divorce such as marital property, child support, custody, etc.
  3. “JPA”- Joint Parenting Agreement. This is the written agreement that deals with the interests of the children. It is often included as a separate agreement that is adopted and incorporated as part of the MSA. It governs everything related to the children: who gains custody, when is visitation, how much is child support, who gets the kids for what holidays, etc.
  4. “Maintenance.” The legally correct term for “alimony” in Illinois. This is the amount of money that one party pays to the other party to support them after the divorce. In Illinois the party that typically earns the higher income is the party that pays “maintenance” to the other party. Regardless of whether that party is the husband or wife. There is no hard and fast rule on what amount of maintenance the courts may award a party. Rather the courts look at the levels of income, the Parties’ standard of living, all of the marital assets, and then determine it on a case by case basis.
  5. “Residential Custody.” This term relates to the parent with whom the children reside. The other parent still has “custody” over the children in that they still have a say in how to raise the children, and visitation rights. But the parent with residential custody is the parent with whom the child lives on a general day-today basis.

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