Equitable Distribution of Marital Property in an Illinois Divorce

Posted on in Divorce

Divorce is common, an outcome dissolving between 40 and 60% of marriages in the United States. Importantly, the laws governing divorce are state-specific, meaning that, if you were married in Illinois, live in Illinois, and will divorce in Illinois, it will be Illinois law that applies to the division of marital property. When dividing property during divorce, Illinois law utilizes a principle of “equitable distribution.”

Equitable distribution demands that all marital property – property acquired by either spouse while married – be divided fairly and equitably. Importantly, however, “fairly and equitably” does not necessarily equate to “equally.” Rather, the courts will attempt to divide property in a fair and just manner.

Marital Property May Include More Than You Realize

Cash, cars, and houses are three items that may spring to mind when contemplating the assets of a marriage. However, marital property often contains a far greater diversity of assets (and, in many cases, liabilities such as credit card debts) than a bank balance, residence, and means of transportation.

To get an idea of other assets that may be considered marital property, think of the full picture of your employment-related income and benefits for the year 2017. Besides a paycheck, there are often pension benefits. If these benefits are acquired and accrue after the legal formalization of the marriage, they are presumed to be marital property and thus subject to equitable distribution. The same is true of all stock options granted to either spouse following the legal existence of the marital union, irrespective of whether the options have vested or not. If pension benefits and stock options are rightfully marital property, both spouses have the right to a fair and equitable share of them.

Non-Marital Property is Not Subject to Equitable Distribution

While income earned during the marriage, whether employment-based or from investments of employment income, is subject to equitable distribution, non-marital property is not (unless it has been so commingled with marital property as to become indistinguishable from it). Here, the timeline is key, as non-marital property, broadly speaking, is property acquired by either spouse before the legal existence of the marriage or following its formal dissolution. For example, if you received a family gift or inheritance prior to becoming married, such property will be, absent an agreement to the contrary, classified as non-marital property and as such not subject to equitable distribution.

If you need help determining how to equitably divide marital property in your divorce, the skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Nancy Kasko, LLC can help you understand your rights and advocate for your best interests. Contact a Warrenville divorce attorney at 630-836-8540 to schedule a free consultation.