An Illinois divorce often comes with a generous serving of financial uncertainty. Many people will put off ending their marriage out of fear of how it will affect their finances. Educating yourself more about how the courts handle financial matters in the divorce can empower you to move forward with ending your marriage and getting on with your life.
For many couples, the biggest concern regarding the financial impact of divorce is how the courts will split up their assets. While it is impossible to predict the exact outcome of the asset division process in an Illinois divorce, understanding the standard that the court uses and how they define different classes of property can help you better understand what will likely occur in your divorce.
Illinois courts use the equitable division standard
When the Illinois courts wants to split your assets, they do their best to do so in a manner that is fair and equitable. In other words, they will look at the circumstances of your marriage, the contributions of each spouse and other factors when determining what assets each spouse will retain after divorce. There are some situations in which the courts do not need to engage in this process.
For example, if you have a prenuptial agreement that guides the asset division process, that may mean you do not need to rely on the courts to make those decisions. Similarly, if you file for uncontested divorce, perhaps by going through mediation or arbitration first, that can protect you from being at the mercy of the courts when it comes to splitting up your possessions. In most other cases, the court will have the final say and how your marital assets get split.
Understanding what is marital property and what is separate property
In the typical divorce, the courts will only consider marital property for the purpose of division. Any items that are separate property typically are not included in the division process. Marital property usually involves any assets or debts that you acquire during your marriage, regardless of whose name is on the paperwork or who technically owns the asset.
Separate property is a much more restricted category. Anything that you owned prior to marriage is typically separate property. Items that you obtain during your marriage as gifts from others or as part of an inheritance are separate property. However, these items may become marital property if they are mixed in with marital assets.
Depositing a financial inheritance into a shared bank account, for example, could mean that the money becomes marital property. If one spouse inherits a house and the other helps fix it up and pay for its maintenance, that could also end up becoming marital or shared property.
It is important to look over your financial situation very closely and get legal advice if you are at all unsure about what assets are separate and which ones are marital or what value you should assign to assets.