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Wheaton, IL property division attorneyMost marriages involve division of labor. One spouse may be in charge of grocery shopping and cooking while the other spouse handles homework, soccer practice, or other child-related matters. One spouse may handle lawn maintenance and home repair as the other focuses on laundry and indoor chores. While dividing responsibilities is common in a marriage, there is one way in which this division of labor can put a spouse in a very vulnerable position during a divorce. If you have not been involved in household financial decisions, it is important to start learning about your finances as soon as possible.

Being Ignorant of Your Financial Situation Can Lead to an Unfair Divorce Settlement

In an interview recently published in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Kris Jenner admitted that she was embarrassingly uninformed about her own finances during her marriage to Robert Kardashian, Sr. She explains that she did not know how much she and her husband spent on household expenses and never once paid a bill. Jenner’s story is not uncommon. Many spouses leave the financial management to the other spouse. Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to finances and divorce, and if you do not fully understand your financial situation, this can put you at a disadvantage when negotiating a divorce settlement.

Start Gathering Financial Documents Now

If you are planning to get a divorce, it is important to know where you and your spouse stand financially. Property that is acquired by either spouse during a marriage is typically considered marital property. Both spouses have a right to an equitable share of marital property. Debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage are also jointly held by the spouses. 

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DuPage County property division lawyer for asset dissipationDivorce can make some people act in irrational or even malicious ways. One example of this is when a spouse purposely destroys the other spouse’s property. A resentful spouse may set fire to the other’s belongings, throw out important documents, or sell valuables for cash. If your spouse has destroyed your property or wasted assets during or immediately prior to your divorce, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and your property. It is also important to educate yourself about your legal options moving forward. You may be able to recoup the value of the destroyed property through a dissipation claim.

Get a Financial Restraining Order to Protect Your Assets During Divorce

If your spouse is intent on seeking vengeance through selling your property, destroying your assets, or emptying joint bank accounts, you need to take immediate action to protect your finances. One option is to request a temporary financial restraining order. This is a court order that prevents both you and your spouse from making unusual financial transactions or significant purchases. A financial restraining order freezes joint accounts and protects marital assets. The order also prevents the spouses from spending, transferring, selling, or hiding funds or property.

A Dissipation Claim May Allow You to Recover the Value of Wasted Assets

If your spouse has already misused, wasted, or destroyed assets, you may still be able to reclaim the value of these assets. Per Illinois law, “dissipation of assets” occurs when a spouse wastes assets during the end of the marriage. More specifically, dissipation involves using assets in a way that only benefits one spouse while the marriage is experiencing an “irretrievable breakdown.” Case law has established that dissipation may involve wasting marital or non-marital assets. A marriage is considered to be in an irretrievable breakdown when the end of the marriage is inevitable, and the spouses have stopped trying to salvage the marriage. Through a successful dissipation claim, you may be awarded a proportionally greater share of the marital estate to compensate you for the wasted or destroyed assets.

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Wheaton, IL divorce attorney for division of professional practicesOne of the most significant parts of the divorce process is the division of marital assets and debts. Some divorcing couples are able to reach an agreement about property distribution through attorney-assisted negotiations. Others reach property distribution settlements through an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation or collaborative law. When a property distribution agreement cannot be reached, the case may go to trial. Complex assets such as investments, small businesses, and professional practices are often especially difficult to quantify and divide during divorce. If you are a doctor, accountant, or other professional, and you own your own practice, you should understand how the decisions about this practice may impact your divorce.

Determining the Identity of a Professional Practice

If there is not a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses ownership of a professional practice, the practice may be subject to division during divorce. Illinois courts divide marital property using a legal theory called “equitable distribution.” Only marital assets, or assets that were accumulated during the marriage, are subject to division. If you opened your professional practice during your marriage, the practice is almost certainly considered marital property.

Non-marital property, meaning property that was acquired before the marriage, is typically not subject to division. According to these general rules, a professional practice that an individual opened before tying the knot would be classified as non-marital property and therefore not subject to division during divorce. However, your practice may still be classified as marital property even if you owned the practice before you got married. For example, if your spouse made significant contributions to the practice, or if marital funds were used to finance the practice, it is possible that the practice will be considered part of the marital estate, regardless of when it was established.

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DuPage County divorce lawyer for division of pension benefitsIf you are like most working adults, you probably plan to enjoy your retirement to the fullest. This can make retirement funds a serious concern during divorce. Retirement accounts are typically treated the same as other types of marital assets. The portion of the retirement funds that were accumulated during the marriage are a marital asset subject to division, while the portion of the retirement funds that were accumulated before the marriage are not subject to division. However, accurately valuing retirement funds is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Pension plans are often especially difficult to accurately quantify and divide during divorce because the value of the pension relies on the future payout of the plan.  

Methods of Valuing Pensions

Three of the most common valuations methods used to determine the present value of a pension for the purpose of asset division during divorce include:

  • Life Expectancy Method: This approach is based on the pension holder’s life expectancy and the expected pension benefits he or she will receive.

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Wheaton asset division attorney for vehiclesIf you are like many people, your car, truck, or other vehicle is an essential component of your everyday life. You may have also spent a great deal of time, effort, and money making payments on your vehicle and keeping it maintained. It is therefore understandable to have concerns about who will retain ownership of your vehicle after divorce. You may question whether your spouse has the right to keep a car that is only titled in your name or worry that you will be forced to sell the vehicle and split the proceeds. Understanding the laws that govern asset distribution during divorce is key to reaching a fair divorce settlement.

Illinois Laws Regarding Ownership of Vehicles and Divorce

You and your spouse may be able to resolve property division concerns such as vehicle ownership through negotiations, mediation, or collaborative law. However, not every divorcing couple is able to reach a property distribution arrangement without court intervention. If your divorce case is litigated, a legal doctrine called “equitable distribution” will be used to determine which spouse gets what assets. Separate property, meaning property acquired by a party before getting married, is typically assigned to the original owner of the property. Property received in an inheritance is also usually classified as separate property. Assets that are acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered marital property. If you purchased your vehicle after you got married, it is part of the marital estate and subject to division. This means that even if your vehicle is titled in your name alone, your spouse will have the same rights to the vehicle as you do.

Factors Considered by the Court During Division of Motor Vehicles

There are a few different ways that vehicles may be handed during the property division process. The vehicle may be sold and the profits split between the spouses, or one spouse may keep the car, while the other spouse keeps assets of similar value. When determining who will own a vehicle after divorce, Illinois courts may consider a number of different factors. The amount of money that each spouse contributed to the acquisition of the vehicle is one consideration. Each spouse’s income and employment circumstances as well as the spouses’ transportation needs are also considered. Parental responsibilities and parenting time arrangements may also influence who gets a vehicle, since a parent may need a larger vehicle to transport children to school or activities.

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