Dividing assets can be one of the most contentious issues in an Illinois divorce, especially if the couple has had a long marriage. A couple whose children are grown may spend most of their time arguing about who gets the Mercedes or the condo in Aspen. How does a judge resolve these questions?
The first factor considered by the judge is how to divide the assets “equitably.” Like many states, Illinois does not have a community property law that would mandate a financially equal division of assets. Instead, the legislature has directed courts to ensure that a couple’s assets are distributed equitably. The word “equitable” means “fairly,” considering the financial situation of each spouse. Equitable does not mean equal.
Many couples have signed pre-marital agreements that contain the couple’s wishes about the division of their property. In the absence of an enforceable pre-marital agreement, the court will consider a number of factors. These factors can include
- The contribution made by each spouse to the purchase of an asset, say a vacation home or expensive boat
- The duration of the marriage
- The economic circumstances of each spouse
- Rights and obligations arising from a prior marriage
- The parties’ respective age, health, occupation and ability to earn a living
- Whether the division will be in lieu of or in addition to spousal maintenance
- Tax consequences of the division
This list is not exhaustive. Depending upon the individual situation of each spouse, the court may consider other factors.
Anyone who is considering a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice on how a judge may approach the issue of property division.