How does Illinois law determine property division during divorce?
Despite headlines about the declining divorce rate in the U.S., divorce continues to be a common experience for many families. The American Psychological Association notes that around 40% to 50% of married couples in the U.S. end up going their separate ways.
The emotional impact of divorce can make it difficult to focus on practical details about how to divide shared property. From bank accounts to the family home, Illinois couples should know that, if they cannot negotiate an agreement outside of court, a judge will distribute shared marital assets according to state law.
When a divorce goes to trial, any property that either spouse acquired during the marriage may be subject to division by the court. This includes both real property such as cars, furniture and houses as well as financial assets, including investments, pension plans and bank accounts, no matter whose name is on an account or title.
Debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage, including credit card balances, mortgages, medical bills and other financial obligations, also become part of the marital estate. However, assets acquired as a personal gift or inheritance remain the sole property of one spouse if he or she has not commingled that property with shared assets.
In many cases, couples can negotiate a divorce agreement outside of court. When the two parties can agree to discuss a reasonable, advised plan for separating assets and providing for children, an uncontested divorce may give separating spouses greater control over their family’s future than during a trial.
Whether a couple negotiates an agreement or goes to trial, a judge must ultimately approve of any divorce arrangement. The court may not approve of a negotiated settlement if the terms are disproportionately favorable to either partner.
Additionally, during a contested divorce Illinois law follows the premise of “equitable” rather than “equal” distribution. That means that a judge may award a greater proportion of the marital estate to one partner based on certain factors, including child custody arrangements, income and education levels of both spouses and intangible contributions made to the family during the marriage.
As always, Denis M. Gavel & Associates, P.C. are here to assist you with all aspects of your divorce. Please call our office at office for a Initial Consultations at no charge to learn more.