When getting divorced in Illinois, spouses must divide their marital assets according to the state’s “equitable distribution” law. Specifically, the law requires that divorcing spouses divide their marital assets “in just proportions considering all relevant factors,” which include things like:

  • Each spouse’s contributions to their marital estate;
  • The spouses’ respective post-divorce employment and income prospects; and,
  • The spouses’ anticipated parenting rights and responsibilities post-divorce.

Of course, while this provides a general framework for coming up with an equitable distribution, it says nothing about how divorcing spouses can (and should) divide their property. For example, if you want to keep certain assets after your divorce, what can (and should) you do to make this happen?

5 Key Considerations for Seeking to Keep Certain Assets After Your Divorce

If you want to keep certain assets after your divorce (which most people do), this is something that you will want to discuss upfront with your divorce lawyer. By developing a plan and strategy at the outset of the process, you can significantly improve your chances of achieving a favorable result without running into unnecessary issues along the way. With this in mind, here are five key considerations as you start thinking about the divorce process:

1. Only Marital Assets Are Subject to Division During the Divorce Process in Illinois

The first thing to keep in mind is that Illinois’s equitable distribution law only applies to divorcing spouses’ “marital assets.” Generally speaking, these are assets acquired during the marriage, except for gifts or inheritances received individually by either spouse. Any assets that do not qualify as “marital” are considered “separate,” and they are not subject to division during the divorce process.

As a result, when preparing for a divorce in Illinois, a good step to take early on is to create a property inventory. When creating your property inventory, make note of any assets that you owned before you got married or that you received via gift or inheritance. While these won’t necessarily all qualify as your separate assets, there is a good chance that many (if not most) of them will. If any of the specific assets you want to keep fall into your “separate” category, you won’t have to worry about dealing with them during your divorce.

2. Distributing Marital Assets Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Dividing Them

Another important factor to keep in mind is that distributing marital assets doesn’t necessarily mean dividing them. Some people go into the divorce process thinking they will have to sell their marital assets so they can split them down the middle—but this isn’t the case. Instead, divorcing spouses will commonly give up certain pieces of property in exchange for others.

For example, let’s say that you have a piece of artwork that you really want to keep. Let’s also say you have a house full of furniture that you are more than happy to let go of as you focus on starting over. In this scenario, the easiest (and best) solution may be for you to keep the piece of artwork that is important to you while letting your spouse keep the furniture that you would rather replace anyway.

3. Your Spouse Probably Wants to Keep Certain Assets After Your Divorce, Too

As you think about these types of tradeoffs, keep in mind that your spouse probably has certain assets in mind that he or she wants to keep after your divorce, too. If certain assets matter to you but don’t matter to your spouse (and vice versa), this can help you work quickly through much of the property distribution process.

With that said, it is important to keep the principle of equitable distribution in mind. While you may not particularly care about certain assets, you don’t want to give up too much and create an unnecessarily challenging financial situation for yourself after your divorce. Even if you are primarily focused on protecting assets with sentimental value, you are still entitled to your fair share of the overall financial value of your marital estate.

4. Your Lawyer May Be Able to Help You Come Up with Creative Ways to Achieve Both of Your Goals

While you and your spouse may have different property-related priorities in many circumstances, there is also a good chance that there will be at least some overlap in the assets you want to keep after your divorce. When this happens, creative problem-solving is often the best path forward.

In some cases, implementing creative solutions can be fairly straightforward. For example, if you both want to keep your children’s artwork, you could agree to create a full digital library while each keeping select originals. But, other circumstances can be more difficult to address. Dealing with pets is a common example. If you both want to keep a beloved pet after your divorce, then a pet custody arrangement may be warranted.

5. It Is Important to Approach Your Divorce with a Long-Term Perspective

Finally, when deciding which assets you want to prioritize in your divorce, it is important to maintain a long-term perspective. While certain assets may seem important now, are they still going to be important 5, 10, or 20 years down the road? To what extent do you need to prioritize maintaining access to your financial assets (i.e., bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement savings) after your divorce? These are important questions to consider. By working with an experienced divorce lawyer, you will be able to develop an informed plan of action that suitably addresses your wants and needs both now and in the future.

Request a Free Initial Consultation with Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

If you are preparing to get divorced in Illinois and would like to know more about the property-related aspects of the divorce process, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 847-623-4002 to request a free initial consultation with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen today.