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Got Half? Property Division in Illinois

Marital property is any property or money that either spouse got during the marriage. If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge will have to make decisions about dividing your property and debt, and also about spousal support. 

Illinois may boast some of the lowest divorce rates in the nation, but think twice before you dub the state a lover’s paradise. In 2019, there were 1.3 divorces per thousand inhabitants in the state. However, this figure is a decrease from 1990, when the divorce rate was 3.8 divorces per thousand inhabitants.

One of the most controversial parts of the divorce process is often the division of marital property. Divorcing couples have the option of dividing property on their own with the help from a mediator, but couples who can’t reach an agreement will require court intervention. Illinois courts divide marital assets and debts according to “equitable distribution.”

Unlike other states that divide the marital estate exactly in half, Illinois instead considers a variety of factors to determine an asset division arrangement that is fair and reasonable on both ends. Here’s a couple of factors to consider when determining property division in Illinois.

Dividing and Distributing Assets

The first step in dividing property during a divorce is deciding whether property is marital or separate. Marital property includes most assets and debts a couple acquired during marriage. Separate property is if a spouse owned it before getting married or acquired it during marriage as a gift or inheritance. 

There are many factors at hand when you try to split up assets such as, how much each side has contributed (income, debt, as a homemaker etc.), the value of property, property hidden or destroyed in the course of the marriage, the length of a marriage and more:

  • Economic circumstances of each spouse
  • Child upbringing costs
  • Existing court maintenance orders
  • Financial contributions from previous marriages
  • Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
  • The status of each spouse (i.e. age, health, occupation, employability)
  • Consequences of tax reallocation from a property division

Similar to property, debt is divided in a divorce. “Marital debt” means debts that a couple gets while they are married. Spouses are responsible for each other’s expenses for the family during their marriage. Marital debt can be divided in a divorce case.

One thing to keep in mind is that the court is obligated to ignore marital misconduct when dividing property unless it had an immediate impact on the property or assets of the marriage. The main goal of the property division is to be fair. It won’t always be an even split, it could turn into a 60/40 split or 70/30 as long as the court deems it to be fair.

Once the court has determined what is and isn’t marital and separate property, they will assign a monetary value to each item. Determining an item’s value can help both the couples and the judge determine whether a specific property distribution is fair and equitable. A spouse with more assets and a high earning career can potentially take on most of the debts in a divorce, while the lower-earning spouse could receive a greater share of the assets. An example of this would be if one of the spouses has a high net worth or owns complex assets, the property division process can become especially complicated since they are liquid assets. 

Couples can divide their assets and debts on their own by reaching a divorce settlement agreement. A settlement agreement should resolve all issues in your divorce. A judge will review any proposed settlement agreement and must approve it before your divorce can become final.

Divorce Mediation

As previously mentioned, working together with a mediator to come to an agreement over the dividing of the property will help the divorce move more quickly. This where instead of going to court and leaving the division of your hard-earned property and assets to court, you can opt to settle matters amicably. You can discuss the property division in the presence of a third party – or mediator – who will host the negotiations and help you and your spouse in reaching a fair settlement.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, trying to determine the division of marital and separate assets can be a lengthy process. One way to speed this process up is to do an audit of all of your household items. Make a detailed list and then go through it line by line with your spouse. If and when couples have trouble communicating, going through a family law attorney may be your best option.

If you are considering filing for divorce, the first step you should take is to contact our Chicago-based law office. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, we can help. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support, guiding our clients through the entire divorce process.

If you are going through a divorce and want an experienced property division attorney to handle your case, do not hesitate to call. Contact us here today to schedule your complimentary consultation.