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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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DuPage County property division lawyer for hidden assetsMany of the important issues raised in a divorce involve financial matters. In order to equitably divide marital assets and debts, determine a spouse’s child support payments, or establish spousal maintenance, a truthful and complete account of both spouse’s finances is needed. Spouses are expected to disclose all sources of income or revenue during divorce. However, some spouses lie about their income and assets. They may underreport income or hide sources of revenue in an effort to gain an advantage during the divorce or avoid paying their fair share of support. If you are worried that your spouse will hide income or assets during your divorce, it is important to speak with a divorce lawyer experienced in uncovering hidden assets right away.

Gathering Financial Information During Divorce

As one of the initial steps in the Illinois divorce process, spouses are required to fill out and submit financial affidavits. These documents should list the spouse’s income, property, debt, and expenses. A spouse who wants to manipulate the outcome of his or her divorce may “forget” to include certain assets or sources of income on the financial affidavit. He or she may also overstate debts or expenses, create fake debts, or falsify business revenue. Lying on the financial affidavit may lead to sanctions or even criminal penalties.

Finding Hidden Assets and Unreported Income Through Discovery

There are several different stages of a divorce case. One of these phases is referred to as the “discovery phase.” During discovery, the spouses and their attorneys gather facts and information that are relevant to the case. Your attorney may use a variety of techniques to uncover financial information. Written interrogatories may be used to formally request information about assets and income. Requests for production may be used to make your spouse surrender copies of tax returns, bank statements, and other financial documents. Depositions, or meetings in which parties are asked a series of questions under oath, are also often used to investigate a spouse’s financial situation. Statements made during a deposition may be used in court to confirm the facts of the case or add credibility to an argument.

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DuPage County family law attorney for marital asset distributionWhile we often think of marriage as a personal or romantic union, it is also a financial partnership. When two people get married, they combine their financial resources, either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, the end of the marriage comes with considerable financial implications. If you are planning to get divorced, you may have questions about how your property will be divided. You may specifically wonder if the spouse who earned the majority of the income during the marriage is entitled to more of the marital estate during divorce.

What Property Is Divided in an Illinois Divorce?

When you file for divorce in Illinois, there are several issues that you will need to resolve. One of these issues is the distribution of marital property. The marital estate consists of property that either spouse accumulated during the course of the marriage. It includes real estate, personal property, collectibles, investments, retirement accounts, and other assets that were obtained while the couple was married. Separate property includes property gained by inheritance or property that a spouse acquired before the marriage took place or after a legal separation. However, understanding what is included in the marital estate and what is separate property is not always easy. Issues like commingled or combined assets can complicate property division during divorce.

Reaching a Property Division Settlement

There is a misconception that the courts always divide property in a divorce. In reality, the vast majority of divorce cases are resolved through a settlement or mutual agreement. You and your spouse may decide how to divide your assets on your own, with help from your attorneys, during divorce mediation, or through another avenue. If you cannot reach an agreement, then the court will step in and divide marital property for you. Illinois courts follow a legal doctrine called equitable distribution in contested divorce cases. Property is divided equitably but not always evenly, and this division is based on factors such as:

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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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