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Kane County family law attorneysWhen a couple decides to end their marriage through divorce, they have the option of deciding how to divide their assets and wealth on their own. However, when a couple cannot come to an agreement about property division, the courts must intervene. Illinois courts use a system called “equitable distribution” to divide a divorcing couple’s marital estate. If you are considering getting a divorce in Illinois, it is important to understand how asset division decisions are made.

Marital Property and Separate Property

According to Illinois law, only marital, or shared, property is divided in a divorce. Marital property typically includes any property or funds that either spouse accumulated during the marriage. Non-marital property, or separate property, includes assets that a spouse already owned before he or she got married. However, differentiating between separate and marital property is not always this straightforward. Certain gifts and inheritances may also be considered separate property – even if the spouse received the gift or inheritance while he or she was married. Furthermore, separate property can be transformed into marital property when it is commingled with marital property.

For example, if a husband purchases a house before he got married but then he and his wife both contributed to the mortgage, the home will likely be considered marital property during divorce. Similarly, if one spouse receives an inheritance during the marriage but then deposits those funds into a shared account, the inheritance funds transform from separate into marital property. The inheritance would then be subject to division according to equitable distribution.

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Kane County divorce lawyersIf a couple has been married for many years, the decision to divorce is not an easy one. Since a lot of time and effort was put into the marriage, it can be devastating both emotionally and financially for one or both of the spouses. The division of marital assets is an issue that needs to be determined during the divorce proceedings, which can cause a lot of conflict if the spouses do not agree on how to divide everything, especially financial assets. One or both partners might have retirement accounts such as 401K, IRA, or pension. Even in an uncontested divorce, splitting the retirement assets can be confusing, so it is helpful to seek legal counsel to make sure both spouses receive what they deserve.  

What is Considered Marital Property?

According to Illinois divorce law, any marital property will be divided fairly and equitably, but not necessarily equally. This is referred to as “equitable distribution.” Marital property is generally considered all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This can include real estate, furniture, and vehicles, in addition to financial and retirement accounts.

A spouse may be entitled to a portion of the other spouse’s retirement plans, such as a 401(k), IRA, stock options, or pension benefits, and vice versa. If a spouse pays into a retirement account or a pension during the marriage, at least part of that account or pension is considered marital property, regardless if only one spouse’s income was paid into the account. All pension benefits, including those under the Illinois Pension Code, as well as stock options, acquired by either spouse during the marriage are marital property, regardless of which spouse participates in the pension plan.

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St. Charles family law attorneyWhen a couple decides to divorce, many issues need to be addressed, especially if they have been married for a long time. One such issue is how to divide marital property and assets. One of the most common questions in a divorce is “Who gets the house?” Illinois is an “equitable distribution” state, not a community property state. This means marital property, including debt, does not need to be divided “equally.” Instead, the law requires property to be divided "equitably." Your house (or houses if you own more than one) is probably the largest asset you and your spouse own, so it is imperative to divide it in a way that is fair to both spouses in a divorce. 

Ways to Split Real Estate in a Divorce

Couples who are divorcing should keep in mind the sale of a home will likely have tax implications and therefore should be factored into the decision-making process. They should also consider what is in the best interest of the children if they have kids.

Options exist for division of real estate such as a house. Here are some clever tips for splitting a home or homes when going through a divorce:

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