Few couples think about the potential for divorce when they marry for the first time. It’s something that happens to other couples, but not them. This is especially true for couples who wait until their late 20’s or even older to marry. Even so, it is estimated that roughly 33% of marriages will end in divorce.
Couples waiting until they are older to get married will be older when they get divorcedand will often have considerable assets that they bring into the marriage. These assets include residential property, businesses, retirement accounts, pensions, etc. Distributing these assets and determining whether or not spousal support will be paid after the divorce can be challenging.
The law in Illinois requires an equitable distribution of marital property. This does not mean that it will be an equal distribution, rather, it means that the distribution will be fair to both parties. When the court determines how to distribute the assets, they will consider each partner’s contributions to the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the financial position of each spouse, and the value of the property to be distributed.
The courts will also consider property that each spouse brought into the marriage. This is considered separate property, not marital property. For older couples, this provides somefinancial protection for the assets and investments they brought into the marriage. However, the courts will consider the usage, commingling, and reliance of both parties on this property. For instance, if a woman has worked full-time at the business her spouse owned prior to the marriage, the courts may determine that she is entitled to a portion of the business due to the contributions she has made during the marriage.
The same is true for property that may have been improved, such as undeveloped land that a house was built upon, or for investment accounts that the other partner has contributed to. The distribution can be complex when assets acquired before marriage are improved or commingled. The courts have discretion to consider the value of the property prior to the marriage as separate property, and then the portion acquired or improved during the marriage as marital property to be distributed in an equitable manner.
Late-married couples who brought assets into the marriage should contact a Chicago family law firm prior to filing for divorce. Doing so can help understand the division of assets and the impact divorce will have on an individual’s post-divorce financial situation.