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Understanding the property division process in an IL divorce

You didn't plan to end up divorced when you got married, so you never even thought of executing a prenuptial agreement. Now, you're staring a potential divorce down and feeling incredibly nervous about the possible outcome. There's all kinds of misinformation out there. Will your spouse get everything, while you walk away from your marriage a pauper? It seems like the internet is full of stories about people who lost everything in their divorce.

The reality of a divorce in Illinois is much less frightening than how the online horror stories may make it seem. Social media can promote exaggeration and even lying, making it hard to know what to expect. Generally speaking, the courts will do their best to ensure the process is fair to you, your spouse and any children that you have together. However, every family is unique, so it's impossible to accurately predict exactly how assets will get split between spouses.

Both spouses have a claim to a portion of marital assets

Whether you stayed home with your children or were the primary wage-earner for your family, you have a right to a share of your marital assets. Under Illinois law, marital assets generally comprise all assets and possessions obtained or earned during your marriage. There are some exceptions to that rule, including property given as a gift to one spouse or assets acquired as an inheritance in the name of only one spouse. Property owned separately by one spouse prior to the marriage is also not subject to division.

Anything else, from the equity in the home you bought together to the retirement account in your spouse's name, is marital property. The courts request an inventory of all assets and debts as part of the divorce process. This will include all of your assets and their estimated value. From there, the courts will seek to find the best way to divide those assets and your marital debts between you and your spouse.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state

The divorce courts in Illinois will do their best to divide your assets and debts in a fair and equitable manner. That can look different for every couple, depending on the circumstances of their marriage and divorce. Children, earning potential and special needs can all factor into the asset division process.

Ideally, you and your spouse can agree on some terms for asset division, such as who gets the house or how to divide your retirement accounts. The ability to compromise and think about the needs of your spouse or children can help you ensure a better outcome to the whole process. If you can't come to a mutual agreement, then the courts will step in to ensure that the division process is fair to all.

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