If you are considering divorcing your spouse, you probably have many questions. One of them may be the question of how you and your spouse’s property will be divided after you split. You may be wondering to yourself, “Who will stay in the family home?” or “Who will get the car?” You may have valuable property that you brought into the relationship such as antiques or jewelry. Will you get to keep those items? The law regarding property division in Illinois can be complicated and vary somewhat from case to case but there are some guidelines that courts use when making decisions about property division.
Before property is divided, it must be categorized as either marital or non-marital. Marital property includes assets and debts that the couple acquired during the marriage. Non-marital property is property that was owned by one spouse before the couple was married or property that was acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. Illinois is an “equitable division” state. Equitable division means that marital property and debts are not always divided evenly; instead, they are divided fairly. The property and assets that a married couple owns is divided based on several factors including:
- A Prenuptial Agreement: If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement before getting married, this will be the starting point for the court in deciding how property will be divided. A prenuptial agreement is good idea for any couple to have, as it can significantly simplify the divorce process if the couple breaks up;
- Each Spouse’s Contribution: The court will consider how each spouse contributed to “the acquisition, preservation, or increase or decrease in value, of the marital or non-marital property.” The word “contribution” does not only refer to money. The contribution that a spouse made as a parent or homemaker is also taken into consideration;
- The Duration of the Marriage: The length of the marriage is taken into consideration during property division. For example, a parent who raised several children during a 20-year marriage will get more credit for his or her contributions to the household than a person who did not help manage the household or only did so for a short amount of time. The length of the marriage is also taken into consideration to prevent “gold diggers” from marrying a wealthy person and then quickly divorcing them in order to obtain a large portion of that person’s wealth; and
- The Economic Circumstances of Each Spouse: This can include each spouse’s occupation, vocational skills, employability, and whether a spouse is or will be receiving spousal support (alimony). The value of each party’s non-marital estate must also be considered. Additionally, courts will account for any way in which a spouse contributed negatively to the overall wealth of the couple while the marriage was breaking down. For example, a spouse who gambled money away or went on outrageous shopping trips may be awarded less property than the spouse who was more conservative with his or her spending during the marriage.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
If you are planning to divorce, it is critical that you have a family law attorney to assist you. The talented Kane County divorce lawyers at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. will walk you through the divorce process and make sure that your needs and wants are addressed. Contact us today for a free consultation.