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Equitable Distribution in Divorce in Illinois

In Illinois, the principle of equitable distribution guides how assets are divided during divorce proceedings. Rather than a strict equal split, the goal is fairness for both parties. Illinois divorce laws focus on various factors to determine the allocation of marital property to each spouse.

It's important to note that equitable distribution laws are applicable only in court proceedings. Couples have the opportunity to negotiate property distribution themselves, potentially saving on the expenses associated with court involvement. They retain the flexibility to divide assets according to their own sense of fairness.

When couples can't agree on property division, the court steps in, using its discretion to make decisions. Alternatively, spouses may reach agreements on some assets through negotiation, leaving the court to resolve the remainder.

Factors Considered by Illinois Courts in Property Division

Illinois courts evaluate both marital and separate properties but allocate only marital assets to each party. In addition to the division of marital assets, divorcing couples must also divide their marital debts. The principles used to distinguish between marital and separate assets are likewise applicable to debts.

Several factors influence how assets are distributed:

Age, Health, and Employability of Each Spouse

The court considers factors such as the spouses' ages and health to ensure a fair distribution of assets. For instance, if one spouse has poor health, they may receive a more favorable share of the property. The present and future earning capacities of each spouse are also taken into account.

Contribution of Each Spouse

Contributions to the marriage, including homemaking and child-rearing, are weighed during divorce proceedings. The duration of the marriage impacts the assessment of each spouse's contribution. Investments and business interests are also considered.

Pre- or Post-nuptial Agreements

Agreements made before or during the marriage are factored into property division. For a prenuptial agreement to be valid, it must meet certain criteria and not be signed under duress. Oral agreements are not recognized in Illinois, and consulting a knowledgeable divorce lawyer is advisable to understand potential pitfalls.

Pension Benefits

Pension benefits accrued during the marriage are subject to equitable distribution. Contributions made to pension accounts during the marriage are considered marital property. Unless specified otherwise in a prenuptial agreement, 401k accounts are divided similarly to other marital assets. Contributions made before the marriage typically remain separate.

Contact Robert S. Medansky, an experienced divorce attorney, for personalized guidance on understanding your choices regarding the division of marital property in Illinois.


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