What You Need to Know about Equitable Distribution of Marital Property in Illinois

Equitable distribution can help resolve conflicts over property or asset division in divorce proceedings in Illinois. Here’s what you need to know about the equitable distribution of marital property in Illinois.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state. Judges enforce state guidelines surrounding equitably distributing marital property and assets.

What is Equitable Distribution in Illinois?

Equitable distribution is the state-mandated process of dividing a divorcing couple’s marital property. Judges split assets among both spouses equitably. Judges may not always split marital property and assets even if they believe it will not benefit one or both parties.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state. A community property state outlines that courts must evenly divide marital property and assets based on state guidelines unless a prenuptial or postnuptial exists. Illinois requires judges to equitably distribute marital property in a way that may not necessarily be even.

Related: Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property in Divorce

Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property in Illinois

Illinois outlines what is and is not considering marital property in equitable distribution cases. Marital property is property one or both spouses purchased during their marriage.

Marital property can include, but is not limited to:

  • Income spouses earn during the marriage,
  • Property spouses purchased while married (like a house or car),
  • Retirement benefits,
  • Settlements,
  • Joint investments, and
  • Property a spouse obtains before a divorce is finalized

Illinois does not subject separate property in equitable distribution. Illinois courts consider non-marital property, or separate property, to include property purchased before marriage, such as inheritances, gifts, and property or assets either obtained before or after marriage or subject to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If a couple has an existing, valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a judge will default to terms and conditions outlining separate property and assets and marital property.

Illinois courts generally deem inheritances as non-marital property as long as it meets certain conditions. Inheritances in the form of money are separate property. Non-monetary property is subjected to Illinois’ court’s discretion. Inheritances kept in solely-titled accounts, and not intermingled with a spouse, are also separate property.

Illinois considers gifts as separate property and therefore not subject to equitable distribution if received from a person other than your spouse. However, gifts given by a spouse are legally considered part of the marital property in Illinois and subjected to equitable distribution.
Separate assets and property could be transmuted into marital property if there was an intentional or voluntary intermingling of assets or property. Transmutation can occur through mixing banking accounts or investments or using an inheritance to pay for shared expenses (mortgages rent, or car payments).

Related: Does My Husband Have to Pay for My Divorce Lawyer?

Equitable Distribution Process in Illinois

If couples disagree on the property division in divorce, judges can step in and equitably distribute marital property. The valuation of marital property is based on the market value at the time of the divorce filing, appraisals, and owner testimony regarding property value.

Judges also consider the following factors during equitable distribution:

  • Alimony,
  • Child support and custody agreements,
  • Length of marriage,
  • Financial and non-financial contributions to marital property or estate,
  • Individual financial circumstances of each spouse, and
  • Dissipation.

Based on the financial information the court collects, a judge will equitably distribute the marital property or monetary compensation and issue a fair decision that benefits both parties.

Illinois issues “no-fault” divorces, meaning if one partner shows the couple cannot get along, they can dissolve their marriage. Judges in equitable distribution cases do not fault spouses for “causing” or filing for divorce. However, a judge can hold a spouse accountable for dissipation, or the spending of money after the breakdown of the marriage for non-marital purposes (i.e. revenge or supporting another significant other). Judges can order a spouse to reimburse a fraction or the entirety of money spent on the other spouse.

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