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A guide to equitable property division in an Illinois divorce

When you bought furniture for your home with your spouse, you were probably not thinking about who would get it if you got divorced. Illinois does not have laws to require an equal split of marital property, meaning you could be arguing over furniture and other assets in the presence of a judge. Instead, marital property in Illinois is distributed under the system of equitable distribution laws. This means your marital property is divided in a manner that is considered fair rather than a literal equal split down the middle. 

Categorizing your property

The assets owned by you and your spouse must be separated from your separate property before they can be divided. Marital property is typically defined as anything either spouse acquired during the marriage. This does not mean every single gift or income received from a non-marital asset is considered marital property. Separate property that is not subject to equitable division generally includes:

  • Property obtained before marriage
  • Property received by legacy, gift or descent
  • Property obtained after separation
  • Property excluded through an agreement by both parties

Separate property, also known as non-marital property, must be assigned to the spouse to whom it belongs.

Factors that affect distribution of marital property

Once each spouse is assigned non-marital property, the process of distributing marital assets begins. Numerous factors are considered when determining the equitable division of marital property, including:

  • The health, age, income and liabilities of each party
  • The duration of marriage
  • The role of each spouse in acquiring, preserving or changing the value of property
  • The prenuptial agreement, if applicable
  • Custody arrangements
  • Tax consequences of property division

While each spouse will rightfully receive non-marital property, the ownership of this property may affect how marital assets are distributed. For example, if one spouse has a substantial amount of separate assets, the other spouse may be awarded a larger portion of marital assets.

Each case is different

While there are certain laws and guideposts regarding equitable distribution of marital assets in an Illinois divorce, division is different for each divorcing couple. Due to the fact that each case involves varying financial circumstances, health issues, contributions and duration of marriage, it is important for assets to be identified, categorized and distributed with careful discretion.

Equitable property distribution can be confusing, complicated and contentious during divorce. Consulting a family law attorney for advice can help both spouses understand the process. An attorney can help you comprehend your rights and reach a reasonable final settlement.

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