dividing assets model, divorce lawyersPhysical property and financial assets acquired during the term of a marriage are considered marital property and may not be sold or disposed of by either party during a divorce without court approval. Eliminating or hiding assets to deprive a spouse of their value in the divorce settlement can result in court-imposed penalties on the offending party.

Court Determines Whether Assets are Marital or Personal

A vital aspect of every divorce is the fair distribution of assets and property between the spouses. While the personal assets of each spouse acquired before the marriage may be exempt from the division of property agreement, under Illinois law, the court uses a number of factors to determine whether assets and debts are marital or personal and assigns a value to each.

Equitable Distribution of Property

Illinois is not a community property 50/50 state where all marital assets are divided equally. The law in Illinois requires equitable distribution of marital property in a divorce. This means that the property is usually not divided in half between the parties. Under equitable distribution rules, the court considers a number of factors, including:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the assets
  • Homemaking and child-rearing contributions of a spouse
  • Value of each spouse’s personal assets
  • Child maintenance costs after the divorce
  • Financial and economic circumstances of a spouse
  • The future earning ability of a spouse

These concerns often result in one of the parties to the divorce receiving a larger portion of the marital assets. A spouse who attempts to sell, hide, or otherwise dispose of marital assets to deprive the other spouse of their fair, equitable distribution in the divorce settlement may face penalties.

Courts can also award a greater division of property to the other spouse to compensate for the dissipation of the marital assets. Remember that economic circumstances and the rules for equitable distribution may influence whether the property is considered the personal property of one spouse, or marital property and subject to distribution.

What Not to Sell

As a general rule, it is best not sell or dispose of any property or assets while divorce proceedings are in progress. Spouses and divorce lawyers are free to reach an agreement about the division of property, but the actual disposition should wait until the agreement is finalized by the court.