When your marriage has lasted decades rather than years, chances are you have significant property to divide if the marriage ends. Couples who are divorcing in Illinois can make their own property division agreement or allow the court to divide property equitably.

Before filing for divorce, understand the state laws that apply to marital property division.

What is marital property?

Anything of value acquired by either spouse during the marriage is marital property. Separate property refers to assets a spouse owned before the marriage or received as an inheritance or gift in his or her name only. However, if a separate asset benefits from the marriage or becomes combined with marital property, it may become marital property in the eyes of the court.

If separate property increases in value during the marriage, the other spouse may receive a portion of the increase amount. For example, if one spouse owns a home and the other contributed to its upkeep, equity earned after the marriage becomes marital property.

How is property divided?

Illinois adheres to the equitable division standard; therefore, the courts divide marital property fairly but not necessarily equally. Factors considered in property division include the following:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The paid and unpaid contributions each spouse made to the marriage
  • Whether the couple has children and existing child custody arrangements
  • Existing spousal and/or child support orders
  • The age, employment circumstances and income of each spouse
  • The tax consequences of property division
  • Whether the couple has a prenuptial agreement

What if one spouse cheated?

The court does not usually consider the circumstances that ended the marriage when dividing property. However, if marital funds supported another relationship, the court may adjust the property received by each spouse accordingly.

Every marriage is different and the particulars of property division vary accordingly. If you and your spouse conflict about assets, mediation or arbitration may help you reach an agreement.