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Lombard divorce lawyersWhen a couple decides to end to their marriage, determining how to divide marital property is often a challenging process. Before division can even begin, the parties and the court must first establish what constitutes the marital estate. Illinois law provides fairly straightforward guidelines as to what is considered marital property and what is not, but, as with most areas of law, there may be some exceptions to the rules. On such variation may include a marital home purchased prior to the marriage, which, by the letter of the law, could be considered non-marital property.

In Contemplation of Marriage

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), assets that are acquired prior to the marriage are generally non-martial property, and those acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage are part of the marital estate. By this standard, a home purchased before a couple actually gets married could ostensibly be considered non-marital property, especially if the home was titled in just one party’s name.

Despite the best theoretical intentions of the law, the real world often proposes logistical challenges. For example, it is not uncommon for a couple to begin looking for a home and complete the purchase before their marriage, with the intention of the sharing the home once they are married (or sooner). If the marriage subsequently ends in divorce, the status of the home as marital or non-marital property may be in question. Over the last four decades, several cases around the state have addressed similar situations and appellate courts have established a reliable case law precedent.

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Lombard divorce lawyersEveryone knows that when you get divorced, your ex-spouse gets half of everything—unless you have a prenuptial agreement. That is just the way it works, right? Well, not exactly. Not in Illinois anyway, along with about 40 other states. The idea of an equal 50-50 split applies only to the nine states that maintain a standard known as community property in divorce. The remaining states, including Illinois, use what is called an equitable distribution standard, which may vary slightly from state to state, but generally requires a more in-depth consideration of a divorcing couple’s property and circumstances.

Determining and Valuing the Marital Estate

The equitable distribution guidelines in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The process begins with establishing which assets belong to the couple and which belong to each individual spouse. Those that belong to the couple include all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage with limited exceptions for gifts, inheritances, and judgments. Assets owned by either spouse prior to the marriage, along with the exceptions to marital property, are non-marital property and not subject to division. The value of the marital estate must also be determined, which may require the assistance of various experts, including real estate appraisers, financial advisors, and other professionals.

Considerations for Equitable Distribution

Once the marital estate has been established and valuated, the court must make a determination regarding the portion of the estate to be allocated to each party. In doing so, the court is required by law to take into account:

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DuPage County family law lawyersFinancial and property considerations can be a very complicated part of the divorce process. It is often difficult to determine who should get what and how much is fair based on the specific circumstances of the case. For many couples, the concepts of dividing marital assets and spousal maintenance might seem like two, very separate ideas. In reality, they are often very closely related, and in many cases, decisions regarding one directly affects the other.

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance, or alimony as it is sometimes called, is intended to help a financially-disadvantaged spouse ease some of the economic impact of a divorce and a post-divorce life. To determine if maintenance is needed, in the absence of an agreement between the spouses, the court must take into account a number of factors regarding the marriage and divorce. These include each spouse’s income and needs, as well as their contributions to the marriage and toward the earning capacity of the other. The court will also consider the length of the marriage and the standard of living that was established.

Property Division

Similarly, when the division of marital property is left to the court, the circumstances of the marriage and divorce must also be weighed carefully. The court must take into account—again—the income and needs of each spouse, as well as any claims of dissipation, which spouse wishes to remain in the marital home, and any provisions regarding the couple’s children.

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Lombard divorce attorneysIdeally, every divorcing couple would be cooperative and amicable during the divorce proceedings and the time leading up to it. However, this is not how a large number of divorces go. Spouses are often at least partially resentful of each other or harbor negative feelings about their soon-to-be-ex. In most instances, these hostile feelings only result in a few sideways glances or muttered insults between the spouses. In more extreme circumstances, one spouse may try to “get even” or hurt the other spouse through excessive spending or squandering marital property. This wastefulness is called “dissipation of assets,” and Illinois courts take the matter very seriously.

What Exactly Does "Dissipation of Assets" Mean?

The concept of dissipation can be hard to understand. The formal definition of dissipation comes from the Illinois Supreme Court. Dissipation formally refers to “the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” In order to know if your spouse is guilty of dissipation, you need to determine what property has been misspent. Generally, marital property includes any property or income which was accumulated by either spouse during the marriage. So, if a spouse wasted money from a bank account which was used for shared expenses like bills and household expenses, he may be guilty of dissipation.

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Lombard divorce lawyersThe process of property division is often a challenging part of any divorce. However, when high net worth comes into the equation, things can get extremely complex and very contentious. It is a good idea to engage a qualified attorney to help guide you and your soon-to-be-former spouse through with a minimum of trouble.

“High Net Worth” Defined

The term “high net worth” divorce is actually somewhat of a misnomer, because a couple does not necessarily have to be particular wealthy to fit this category in divorce law. Rather, they must have assets that can be complex to divide; it just so  happens that in many instances, complex assets include many that are extremely valuable. Not everyone has assets such as specific types of retirement accounts, antiques, or complicated investments, and it can require more skill and time to handle them effectively.

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