Illinois equitable distribution law states that in the case of a divorce, all marital property will be equally distributed. The types of marital property that are considered during these proceedings include homes, cars, bank accounts, furniture and investment accounts. The law describes marital property as all property that is acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This may include property that was brought into the marriage by one spouse, then transferred into co-ownership during the time of the marriage.

Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean that all assets will be divided in half. Instead, it means that property will be divided into what the court decides are fair proportions. During the division process, the court works to categorize both property and debt as belonging to the marriage or belonging to the individual. It then puts a dollar value on anything that qualifies as marital property or debt. It is at this point that the court works to distribute the assets fairly between both partners.

Judge’s considerations

Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act gives judges a list that must be considered as they decide how to divide up marital property. Some of the factors that go into this decision- making process are as follows:

  • Contribution – How much each spouse has contributed to the increase or decrease of the marital estate value. This factors in the contributions of a spouse who may have contributed to the marriage by staying at home to raise children and act as a homemaker.
  • Dissipation – The amount of marital property each spouse has spent, given away, transferred, mismanaged or converted.
  • Value – Assignment of dollar value to assets belonging to each spouse. These assets can include physical property, such as cars and homes, and non-physical property such as retirement accounts and investment portfolios.
  • Opportunity – The ability each spouse has to acquire assets and income after the divorce.
  • Children – Assessing the effect of the property division on the ability of the custodial parent to adequately care for the children.

Once a judge has considered all relevant factors, they make a ruling as to what is a fair distribution of marital assets and debt. It is imperative that all assets are included in the marital property and that they are correctly valued.

Division of property is not something that courts and judges take lightly. The law requires them to factor in many items to ensure that equitable distribution is achieved. Meeting with a family law attorney can help to ensure that people understand this part of the divorce proceedings, and may help to ensure that all marital property is considered in the division process.