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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 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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Wheaton debt division attorneyDid you know that the average amount of personal debt for Americans aged 40-55 is over $135,000? Whether through a home mortgage, personal loans, credit cards, or student loans, most people have at least some debts. If you are planning to get a divorce, you may be wondering how debt will be handled. Typically, marital debt is handled similarly to marital property during an Illinois divorce, but each case is different.  

Illinois Laws Regarding Marital Debt

In many marriages, one spouse is more of a spendthrift than the other. Often, differences in spending habits and financial goals are one of the issues that lead to divorce. If your spouse has accumulated a considerable amount of debt, you may wonder if you will be expected to repay it after divorce. You may also wonder if your spouse will be on the hook for debts that you have acquired.

Illinois courts divide marital property according to a legal doctrine called equitable distribution. Property and debts are divided fairly but not always evenly. Marital property and debts, meaning property and debts obtained during the marriage, are divided between spouses. Non-marital property, which includes assets and debts acquired by a spouse before getting married, is assigned to the spouse who originally acquired it. However, in the majority of cases, the court does not decide the allocation of marital property and debts during divorce. The divorcing couple instead reaches an out-of-court settlement regarding property and debts through negotiation, mediation, or another dispute resolution method.

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DuPage County property division lawyer for hidden assetsWhen two people join their lives in marriage, “yours” and “mine” become “ours.” According to Illinois law, spouses have the right to an equitable division of marital assets during divorce. Any property that was accumulated during the marriage by either spouse is part of the marital estate and subject to division. This property may include household items, jewelry, vehicles, and other physical property, as well as retirement accounts, investments, business interests, and other complex assets. Spouses who do not want to share the marital estate fairly may try to manipulate the asset division process during divorce by hiding assets or property. Some of the most common methods of concealing assets include:

Underreporting Income and Business Revenue

Divorcing spouses in Illinois are required to fill out a financial affidavit that lists their gross income, expenses, debts, assets, health insurance information, and other financial data. One of the easiest ways to hide assets during a divorce is for a spouse to simply lie about his or her finances. Spouses may fail to disclose bank accounts and funds or undervalue the worth of their business, investments, or other assets. Business owners may use cash transactions, omit financial transactions from business records, delay the receipt of client payments, create fake expenses and debts, pre-pay vendors, or take other actions to make a business appear less successful than it really is.

Temporarily Transferring Assets to Another Party

Some spouses may attempt to reduce their net worth prior to divorce by transferring assets to other people or organizations. For example, they may lend cash to friends or family members with the understanding that the person will return the money after the divorce is finalized. They may also use the IRS as a means of temporarily reducing their assets. A spouse may intentionally overpay his or her taxes knowing that the IRS will refund the overpayment through his or her tax return. Expensive items like art, antiques, or jewelry may also be used to artificially lower a spouse’s net worth. A spouse may buy an expensive, hard-to-value item and then report the item’s value as much lower than it actually is on their financial affidavit. After the divorce, he or she will intend to sell the item and recover the money.

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