How to Divide Up the Assets for a Divorce in Illinois

By Mary Jane Freeman

In Illinois, you have the right to reach a property settlement agreement with your spouse: the two of you can mutually decide how your assets and debts will be divided in a divorce. But if you don't get along, or otherwise can't come to an agreement, the court will make this decision for you. Illinois law follows a system of equitable distribution to divide your marital assets. This means the court will divide the property in a fair and just manner -- though not necessarily equally -- after evaluating your circumstances.

In Illinois, you have the right to reach a property settlement agreement with your spouse: the two of you can mutually decide how your assets and debts will be divided in a divorce. But if you don't get along, or otherwise can't come to an agreement, the court will make this decision for you. Illinois law follows a system of equitable distribution to divide your marital assets. This means the court will divide the property in a fair and just manner -- though not necessarily equally -- after evaluating your circumstances.

Marital Property

Before the court can divide assets in your divorce, it must first categorize the property you and your spouse own. This is because Illinois courts only have authority to divide marital property in divorce. Any asset you or your spouse acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. Assets you acquired before the marriage or received by inheritance or gift while married is considered your separate property, also known as non-marital property. Separate property is off-limits, and the court cannot divide it in your divorce case.

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Commingling and Transmutation

Sometimes, determining whether property is marital or separate is not easy or obvious. This often happens when spouses mix, or commingle, their assets. For example, if you place money you earned before your marriage into a joint account shared with your spouse, you have commingled your separate and marital assets. Unless you can later trace the funds to their original separate property source, the court is likely to deem the entire account marital property and divide the balance accordingly. The situation can become even more complicated if proceeds from the account are used to pay family expenses. In such cases, the court may find that you intended to use your separate funds for the benefit of the family, essentially treating the funds as a gift to the marriage. This is known as transmutation. The court will not reimburse these separate funds to you, even if you can trace them to separate property, because they have been converted into marital property.

Equitable Distribution

Once the court is able to distinguish between your marital and separate property, it will begin the process of distributing your family's marital assets. To do so, it will employ the principles of equitable distribution. This means the court will divide property between you and your spouse in a manner that is fair and just, though not necessarily equal, after evaluating several factors set out in Illinois law. These factors include the length of the marriage; each spouse's contributions, including nonpaid contributions, such as by a homemaker; any custody arrangements; each spouse's age, health, income and economic circumstances; and tax consequences of any property division.

Marital Misconduct

Under Illinois law, marital misconduct is not relevant to property division during divorce. This means the court will not consider a spouse's bad behavior when dividing the marital assets. So, if your spouse cheated on you and this is what led to the divorce, the court won't care -- you will not get more property because of it. But there is one exception to this rule: If your spouse engaged in financial misconduct, and this led to a waste of marital assets, the court may order him to reimburse you for those wasted assets in the divorce. For example, if your spouse used marital funds to splurge on his mistress by buying jewelry and luxury vacations, the court may award you additional marital assets to compensate for this loss because those funds were not used for the benefit of the family.

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Can She Really Take 1/2 of Everything in a Divorce?

References

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Divorce Property Rules

When you and your spouse separate, you must split your economic lives as well as your personal lives. Although the law on property division varies from state to state, all states have some way of dividing marital property and debt upon separation. Learning how your marital estate may be distributed can make an often confusing process easier to bear.

Marital Property Laws in Ohio

Couples who decide to divorce often wonder how their property will be split, or how much say they have in the matter. The answers to these questions depend, in large part, on where you live and the character of the property in question. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, meaning that courts split your marital property in a manner that is intended to be fair and just, based on factors set forth in state law.

Proving Money Is Inherited

Each state has its own laws regarding the division of marital property in a divorce. Community property states, which stand in the minority, require courts to divide an estate equally, whereas equitable distribution states -- the majority -- seek to divide estates equitably, or fairly. In both types of jurisdictions, inherited money is usually considered separate property and not divisible in divorce. The burden of proving that certain funds represent your inheritance, however, will likely rest on you.

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