Divorce Terms to Be Familiar With

“Maintenance” – Previously known as Alimony, is the means by which a spouse with low income can receive some support from a spouse with greater income, and is independent of child support.  Maintenance is usually paid for a definite, yet limited, amount of time.  Whether a spouse qualifies for maintenance depends upon the individual facts of their case.  Under certain circumstances, even Husbands can receive maintenance from their Wives.

– Visitation is the parenting schedule set by the parties and the Court between the non-custodial parent and the minor children.  A new term, ‘parenting time,” may completely replace the term “visitation” in future versions of the laws.  The typical visitation ordered by a Court, usually agreed upon by the parties, is alternating weekends and one evening for dinner during the week.  In addition, usually parents also share summer breaks, alternate holidays, and individually enjoy vacation time with the minor children.  The agreement necessary to finalize the visitation issue in a divorce case is called a Joint Parenting Agreement.  As I mention in my website, Joint Parenting (or Joint Custody) is not a 50/50 split in time.  When both parties are being reasonable, and when considering the best interests of the minor children, this agreement can be executed at the beginning of the case, and will be incorporated in the final Agreements at the end
of the case.

“Retirement Accounts”
– Retirement accounts, also known as Retirement Benefits, include IRAs, Pensions, Stocks, 401(k) accounts etc.  Typically in a divorce case these benefits are equally divided between spouses.  The retirement benefits that are divided are only those portions that existed during the marriage (“marital property”) versus any balance within the retirement benefit prior to the marriage (“non-marital property”).  However, any increases that occur during the marriage are considered a marital versus non-marital asset.  The mechanism created to divide these retirement assets at the end of the case are referred to as Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) or Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Orders (QILDRO).

“Child Support”  -- Child support is typically non-negotiable and set by Illinois Statute (the Law).  Arguments for setting child support at an amount below or above the statutory guidelines is rare and depends upon the specific facts of a case.  In typical cases, the net income of that spouse ordered to pay child support is set, then the actual child support amount is calculated using this figure.  The percentage required for child support for one child is 20% of net, for two children 28% of net, and for three children 32% of net.  Please keep in mind that take-home pay is not necessarily the legal net income amount (for example, if you have 401(k) deductions, etc.).  Child support (referred to initially by the Court as Temporary Child Support) can usually be set early in the case by filing pleadings, and conducting a hearing, with the Court. The child support order will also be part of the final agreement.  Should your spouse have increased income after the conclusion of the divorce case (upon entry of Judgment), the child support can be modified with the involvement of the Court.

“Unallocated Family Support”
--  Unallocated support usually refers to a combined child support and maintenance payment.  When combining these payments, the parent who pays can claim a tax deduction for all payments, and the parent that receives this payment must claim this money as income.  This version of support is usually used when the receiver parent does not work or has a very low income.  This type of support may also be used by a higher income parent to pay above guideline support while maintaining a tax advantage.  Many accountants are not aware of the ramifications of this option.  We can go into more detail on this issue during a face-to-face meeting.

“Marital Residence” – The marital residence refers to the real property owned by the parties or one party, either used as the living quarters for the family or couple, or as investment property.  Both the husband and wife are entitled to some portion of the equity in the marital residence(s).  (Note: If the home was purchased by one spouse before the marriage the property might not be marital property – but this is usually fact-specific to each case).  Often the percentage received by the spouses is what causes a dispute.  If both Husband and Wife are financially on equal footing, then each is generally entitled to 50% of the equity in the house.

If one spouse wants to buy their spouse’s interest in the home, and remain living in the home, then the spouse who wants the house will pay to the other the agreed equity (usually one-half) when the home is refinanced.

If no one wants the house, then usually the home will be listed for sale with the proceeds of the sale (after costs) divided.  When children are involved, the family will be allowed to stay in the house for a fixed period of time.

“Retainer” – The retainer amount is the amount required by the agreement to hire an attorney, payable at the start of the case, in order to begin the attorney-client relationship. This is similar to an “advance” for work to be done in the future and is billed at the hourly rate until exhausted. This amount is also required by attorneys at each point where the amount has been exhausted, as often as this may occur during the representation.  Typically, my office offers lower retainer amounts than other firms and, depending upon the client, can tailor a payment plan to take into account your circumstances.  Please note that most attorneys will not stay in a case without replenishment of the retainer amounts, and Judge’s typically grant attorney’s motions to withdraw seemingly automatically, with proper notice to the client, and without a trial date already set.  Many attorneys even utilize the ethically questionable practice of accepting a retainer at the start of the case, immediately doing enough work to bill the entire amount, then asking for an even higher retainer payment to stay on as attorneys in a case, only to withdraw when the client cannot make this high retainer replenishment payment.

For a free consultation, Call: (312) 325-7330

Reno R. Renzetti
Attorney At Law
225 West Washington St., 22nd Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Ph. (312) 325-7330
Fax. (312) 924-0201
E-mail: divorce@renzettilaw.com

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