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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 family law attorneyIn contested divorces, many spouses begin the case thinking about the marital property they would like to keep. Often the parties will dispute who gets the house. Sometimes one spouse would really like a certain piece of furniture or possibly a vehicle that the couple bought together. Marital property is more than just physical objects, however, and there is even more to it than just considering the current cash and investments that you and your spouse have. Under Illinois law, pension and retirement accounts are also considered marital property, and though you and your spouse may not retire for many years, this money will need to be considered in your divorce agreement.

Dividing Pension and Retirement Accounts in an Illinois Divorce

In Illinois, marital property is generally anything that the spouses acquired together during the course of a marriage. The state of Illinois considers pensions, whether they are vested or unvested, to be marital property subject to division in divorce proceedings. According to the law, marital assets are to be split equitably. This does not mean that each spouse will get half of all marital assets, but rather that a court will divide these assets as fairly as possible.

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martial assets, division of property, Illinois Divorce AttorneyDivorce can present an entire spectrum of challenges for any couple, as they must contend with a large number of concerns. Depending on their specific circumstances, they may need to negotiate considerations for their children, determine new living arrangements, and establish an agreement regarding spousal support. Despite the difficulties inherent to any those issues, couples frequently have the most trouble in property division negotiations.

Equitable Distribution

Illinois law concerning divorce requires that, in the absence of a reasonable agreement, the property which constitutes the marital estate is to be divided between divorcing spouses. Unlike some states, however, Illinois property division guidelines require the equitable distribution of marital assets and debt as opposed to equal division. While equitable distribution will be addressed in more detail in a separate post, it essentially means that the property should be divided fairly, not necessarily 50/50, based on the consideration of circumstantial factors.

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marital home, marital property, distribution of property, home appraisal, asset valuationAside from the direct impact of divorce on your children and the emotional toll on your psyche, perhaps one of the most important questions that requires your immediate attention is, "What do we do about the house"?

If you reside in Illinois, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5), states that there should be equitable distribution of all marital property in a divorce. Marital property covers everything from the marital home, finances, vehicles and recreational toys down to all household content acquired during the marriage. Although the decision regarding the family home may prove the most difficult.

Your divorce attorney will review your overall situation, including all variables playing into the decision over the home. Depending on your family needs, you and your spouse may decide that you will remain in the marital home with the children, but you will need to order an appraisal to determine your buy out cost to satisfy your spouse’s interest in the home. If on the other hand, you are open to placing the home on the market and once sold, you will be able to equally split the proceeds with your spouse.

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divorce finances, Illinois divorce lawyer, divorce attorney, divorce settlement, division of propertyAlthough going through a divorce can be a very emotional time, it’s important to keep divorce finances in mind in order to protect both your future and your children’s future. Financial analyst Suzanna de Baca offers these financial tips for people who are going through a divorce:

Do not give too much away in the divorce settlement.

Negotiating with your spouse over property and assets can turn acrimonious. The constant arguing and conflicts can be emotionally draining, causing many people to "surrender" and end up walking away with less than an equitable amount – just to stop the fighting. It’s important to protect your financial future, so de Baca suggest working with both your attorney and a financial planner to ensure you receive a settlement that is in your best interest.

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divorce yard sale, garage sale, property division, divorce, Illinois divorce lawyerOne of the most acrimonious parts of a divorce can be the negotiations regarding how the marital assets are going to be divided. Even the friendliest of divorces can suddenly turn nasty over a piece of who is going to get a certain piece of furniture, book collection, paintings, etc.

The NY Daily News recently reported a story about one divorcing couple who, after a few years of fighting over how several hundred dollars’ worth of items should be divided between the two of them, are holding a "divorce yard sale." The couple will be auctioning off furniture, cars, clothing, jewelry, paintings and antiques. Selling off items that are part of a marital estate and splitting the proceeds is not uncommon. It is not only for people who are involved in high-asset divorce cases. Any couple who has items that they jointly own may decide to sell those items if they cannot reach an agreement as to who should retain ownership of which items. Depending on the value and number of the items you are looking to sell, there are several options to getting the most amount of money for your items. If you have antiques to sell, then you should contact an antiques appraiser/dealer to find out what the worth of these items is. A dealer may also be able to help find a buyer for the items. It is also probably in your best interest to have the items appraised by more than one dealer. If you have many items to sell, contact estate sale company to coordinate the sale. These companies will help coordinate how your items are marketed, selling large ticket items separately and dividing the smaller items into "lots" which multiple items sold together. Consignment shops are a great place to sell items like clothing and smaller household items, such cookware and decorating items. If you would rather not have to deal with transporting these items to the shop, there are online sites where you can also post these items for sale. On Ebay.com, your item is posted for a limited amount of time and interested parties can bid on it, just like in an auction. At the end of the auction – typically 3 to 5 days – the highest bidder wins the item. All transactions are done online and delivery is done through shipping.

Locally, Craigslist.com allows  you to list the items you have for sale online and determine cost and delivery/pickup method. It’s similar to having an online yard sale by putting you in touch with people who may be interested in your property.

However you decide to divide up your marital estate, make sure you have an experienced Lombard family law attorney representing you to ensure that you get what you are entitled to.
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