How Courts Divide Property During Divorce in Illinois

Illinois is an equitable distribution state. To understand how an “equitable distribution” is decided during a divorce, a distinction first needs to be made between non-marital and marital property by the court. Because Illinois is an equitable division state, property isn’t divided equally and in most cases it's not a 50/50 split.

According to the law, there are a number of factors that go into deciding how property is divided:

  • How much each side has contributed (income, debt, as a homemaker etc.)
  • Any property hidden or destroyed in the course of the marriage
  • Value of property
  • Length of the marriage
  • Economic circumstances of each spouse, and where children are
  • Financial contributions from previous marriages
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
  • The status of each spouse, including age, health, occupation, employability and other similar factors
  • Child-rearing costs and expenditures
  • Existing court maintenance orders
  • Anything that would affect a spouse’s ability to make money in the future
  • Consequences of tax reallocation from a property division.

Remember, the goal of the property division is to be fair, which might not mean a 50/50 split, it could turn into a 60/40 split or 70/30 as long as the court deems it to be equitable. Notably absent from the list of considerations is the conduct of either spouse during the marriage, such as an affair. The court is legally obligated to ignore marital misconduct when dividing property unless it had an immediate impact on the property or assets of the marriage.

Dividing Automobiles and other Vehicles

When dividing family cars the first step is identifying fair market value for each car using resources like Kelly Blue Book. This also means that if there is a difference in the Blue Book value, one spouse would be owed the difference.

For the sake of example, say a married couple owns two cars: a 2010 Ford Focus 4D Sedan and a 2011 Toyota Highlander SE Sport Utility. At the time of writing, the Ford is worth approximately $4,100 and the Toyota $17,200. In this case, whoever gets the Toyota, the higher value car, will owe about $11,000 in other assets to make up for the difference.

Dividing Household Items

Items like clothing, jewelry, and other personal effects are considered a household item. In most cases the owner of the items keeps them. If you are already living separately it is likely you have already separated these items. Other items included in this category include furniture, appliances, kitchen items, tools, electronics, etc.

Speaking honestly, the easiest way to save money when going through a divorce is to do this part without an attorney. It does not make sense, economically, to have two lawyers argue over a nightstand.

Do an audit of all of your household items, making a detailed list and then go through it line by line with your spouse. When couples have trouble communicating, going over the same list via e-mail may be the best option.

Download our free property division worksheet which covers a wide range of asset and debt categories to help you stay organized.

Prenuptial Agreements & Property Division

Prenuptial agreements, also known as premarital agreements or prenups, will impact property division under certain circumstances.

Illinois is one of 27 states to adopt the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which means when a valid prenuptial agreement is present and signed by both parties certain property will be awarded solely to one spouse and is no longer marital property.

References: Kelly Blue Book, Uniform Premarital Agreement Act

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