Going through a divorce inherently requires compromise. Neither spouse will get everything—and both spouses should understand this going in. But, how much compromise is necessary?

This is an important question. As the divorce process progresses, both spouses need to be reasonable, and both should approach potential conflicts with an open mind. But, both spouses also need to know when to stand firm. If you give up too much, you won’t necessarily be able to take it back, and this could impact your life (and your children’s lives) for years to come.

So, is Illinois a 50-50 state when it comes to divorce?

Illinois is Not a 50-50 Divorce State

The simple answer is, “No.” Illinois is not a 50-50 state when it comes to divorce—not in any facet. Instead, Illinois law requires divorcing spouses to make informed decisions based on their unique family and financial circumstances. While a 50-50 split of certain assets or rights may be appropriate in some cases, what constitutes an appropriate split must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

This is true for all five of the main aspects of a divorce in Illinois: (i) property division, (ii) debt division, (iii) spousal support, (iv) child support, and (v) child custody.

1. Property Division is Governed By the Law of Equitable Distribution

In most cases, when spouses have questions about a potential 50-50 split, they are referring to their property. While some states require a 50-50 split of marital assets, Illinois does not. Instead, divorcing spouses in Illinois must divide their marital assets according to the principles of equitable distribution.

What does it mean for a division of marital assets to be “equitable”? In a nutshell, the issue is fairness. Each spouse is entitled to a fair share of the couple’s marital estate taking into account factors such as the duration of the marriage, financial and non-financial contributions, access to separate assets, child custody responsibilities, and post-divorce economic circumstances.

As noted above, in some cases this may call for a 50-50 split. If divorcing spouses’ contributions and earning capacities are relatively equal, then an equal distribution of marital assets may be equitable. But, divorcing spouses should not assume that an equal split is warranted. Instead, they should apply Illinois’s equitable distribution factors to determine what makes sense within the context of their divorce.

2. Debt Division is Also Governed By the Law of Equitable Distribution

In Illinois, the division of joint debts is governed by the same equitable principles as the division of marital property. If you and your spouse have a mortgage, car loans, school loans, credit card debt, medical debt, or other debts to divide during your divorce, you will need to develop an equitable solution based on the circumstances at hand.

While secured debts will often go with the assets that secure them (i.e., the spouse who gets the family home will also assume responsibility for the mortgage), this doesn’t always have to be the case. Additionally, divorcing spouses will often agree to pay off certain debts as part of the divorce process. Once again, the key is to seek out a fair solution that reflects both spouses’ rights and that suitably addresses both spouses’ post-divorce needs.

3. Spousal Support Takes Both Parties’ Finances and Employment Prospects Into Account

Calculating spousal support in an Illinois divorce involves a different approach entirely. While the ultimate goal is still fairness to both spouses, need plays a much bigger role, and the duration of the marriage is the driving factor for determining the duration of an alimony award.

When it comes to calculating spousal support, the first step is to determine which type of alimony is most appropriate. Illinois recognizes four different types—all of which are appropriate under different circumstances:

  • Temporary alimony (alimony awarded during a divorce to a financially-dependent spouse)
  • Fixed-term alimony (alimony paid for a specific period of time post-divorce)
  • Reviewable alimony (alimony paid while the recipient seeks to become self-supporting)
  • Indefinite alimony (alimony paid to financially-dependent spouses following long-term marriages)

After deciding which type of spousal support is warranted (if any), then the focus shifts not to splitting the spouses’ collective post-divorce income 50-50, but instead to ensure that both spouses can continue to enjoy their current standard of living as much as possible.

4. Child Support is Governed By the Illinois Child Support Guidelines (In Most Cases)

Calculating child support is also an entirely different process under Illinois law. In most cases, divorcing parents must determine their respective obligations in accordance with Illinois’s Child Support Guidelines. Rather than focusing on dividing financial responsibility 50-50, the Child Support Guidelines focus on the parent’s respective incomes, their child-related expenses, and the “number of children that are being supported.”

5. Child Custody Arrangements Must Reflect the Best Interests of the Children Involved

When it comes to child custody, some parents want a 50-50 split, and some don’t. Ultimately, however, the parent’s wishes take a back seat to the “best interests” of the children involved.

In Illinois, the children’s best interests are the guiding factor in all child custody determinations. Divorcing parents must evaluate Illinois’s “best interests” factors and apply them to their family circumstances. While truly shared custody arrangements (with 50-50 parenting time) have become more common in recent years, an equal split won’t necessarily be in the children’s best interests in all cases. In some cases, it may be better for the children to spend more time in one parent’s home, or it may make sense to consider an alternative such as co-parenting or bird’s nest custody.

Schedule an Appointment with Gurnee, IL Divorce Attorney Deanna J. Bowen

If you are considering a divorce and would like to know more about what you can expect with regard to property division, financial support, or child custody, we encourage you to get in touch. Please call 847-623-4002 or request a free consultation online to schedule an appointment with Gurnee, IL divorce attorney Deanna J. Bowen today.