Yours, Mine, and Ours: Classifying Marital Property

marital property, divorce, Illinois family law attorneyWhen you are single, anything and everything you buy belongs solely to you. Any shopping trip or purchase decision impacts only you and the people with whom you choose to share that purchase. When you are married, on the other hand, the property you acquire is, in most cases, no longer just yours. Instead, it is part of what is known as the marital estate, meaning that both spouses claim equitable ownership of the asset, regardless of which spouse bought or earned it. During the marriage, of course, most couples are generally happy to share their property in this way. In divorce, however, the situation may get a little more complicated.

What is Marital Property?

Under the law regarding divorce in Illinois, only marital property is subject to division between divorcing spouses. Therefore, the law also contains provisions defining marital property. Any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is a marital asset with a couple of very limited exceptions. Acquired property can be physical items, such a car or piece of furniture, real estate, or an amount of money, such as employment-related wages or investments. As far as the law is concerned, it makes no difference which spouse earned or purchased the asset, for what reason, or even whose name is on the loan or title; if it occurred during the marriage, it is part of the marital estate.

Exceptions to Marital Assets

Aside from property that each spouse already owned prior to the marriage, there are a few types of acquisitions that can occur during the marriage that would not automatically be considered marital property. Property acquired as a gift or through an inheritance to one spouse is considered non-marital property. Any money or assets received as the result of the sale of non-marital property are also non-marital. Income generated by a non-martial asset—a previously purchased investment property, for example—may be marital or non-marital depending on whether the income is attributable to the personal effort from one spouse during the marriage. If effort was required, such as advertising, maintenance, and active management, the income is marital, similar to regular wages; if no effort was required, the income is non-marital.

Property that would otherwise be considered part of the marital estate may also be excluded under the terms of a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. As long as such an agreement is entered voluntarily, and its provisions are relatively fair, it will be enforceable during the divorce process.

Seek Legal Representation

If you are considering divorce and have questions about the property division process, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney today. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can ask questions and get the answers you need from a knowledgeable legal professional committed to helping you find the post-divorce happiness you deserve.




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