Family Law Glossary
Our Belleville, IL family law attorneys explain what you need to know
Legal cases involving family law often include involve unfamiliar legal terms. Knowing what these words mean matters. That's because the outcome of your case could depend on one word or phrase in a legally binding document signed by you.
Before you sign anything, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Make sure you understand what these words mean. Below, you can find definitions to some commonly used words and phrases involving family law. We also encourage you to talk to an experienced family law lawyer at Courtney ∙ Clark Law, P.C. in Belleville, Illinois.
Our attorneys know the law inside out. That's because we have decades of experience handling complex legal cases throughout southern Illinois. Learn more about your legal options. Contact us and schedule your free case evaluation today. We want to help.
Definitions for family law legal terms
- Alimony/Maintenance - Financial payments made to a former spouse after a divorce or legal separation by the other former spouse.
- Annulment - Legal declaration by a court invalidating a marriage. When a marriage is annulled, it is as if the marriage never occurred or was never valid in the first place.
- Closed adoption - Type of adoption in which there is no contact between the birth mother and the adoptive family.
- Complaint - Legal term used to describe a document outlining the reasons why someone is taking legal action, often filing a lawsuit.
- Custody - Care of someone, usually a child, after a couple has divorced or legally separated. Many couples share custody of a child.
- Decree - A final decision or order made by a judge or court that is legally binding.
- Dissolution - Termination of a legally binding contract, document or arrangement. Often used when referring to divorce (dissolution of a marriage) or when an adoption is reversed.
- Estate - Term used to describe a person's possessions or assets when that person dies. A person's estate can include their house, other property, checking accounts, personal savings, retirement savings, stocks, bonds and individually-owned businesses.
- Guardianship - A legal designation of a responsible adult as someone's legal guardian, the person responsible for making legal decisions for a child or disabled adult.
- Paternity - Legal term used to describe the father of a child.
- Postnuptial agreement - Legally binding agreement made after a couple's marriage, outlining various rights or responsibilities, as well as financial agreements, if the marriage ends in divorce.
- Power of attorney - A legal document in which one person grants the right to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf to another person, whether on a temporary or permanent basis. The person with power of attorney need not be an actual attorney.
- Prenuptial agreement - Legally binding agreement made before a couple's marriage outlining various rights or responsibilities, as well as financial agreements, if the marriage ends in divorce.
- Probate - Process that takes place after someone's death involving verifying the validity of the deceased person's will. Special probate courts handle such cases.