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What does equitable distribution mean in a divorce?

What do a couch and a car have in common during a divorce? Both items are property, and only one spouse will walk away with it. While a piece of furniture doesn't seem like much to fight about, couples struggle with resolving property issues. A main reason why is because of equitable distribution. 

Some would believe that equitable distribution means equal in divorce. In Illinois, this is not the case. The state law requires a fair division. Ironically, fair doesn't mean marital property is divided 50-50. Every situation in divorce is unique. So, if your partner gets to keep the family dog, it may seem unreasonable to you. But the court could think otherwise.

What property is involved?

There are two types of property in a marriage: marital property and separate property. Marital property is any property acquired by you or your spouse during the marriage. Separate property belongs to only one spouse, such as an inheritance, house or gift purchased or received before your marriage.

Other considerations

It's common for couples in the divorce process to disagree on the division of property. The Illinois court will then need to decide on who gets what. Considerations in equitable property division include:

  • Condition of each spouse.Your age, health, job and financial situation has a lot to do with what you receive.
  • Length of marriage. The duration of your marriage affects the division of property.
  • Children. If one spouse will be considered the sole caretaker, the court takes into account all the provisions the children will need.
  • Marital estate. Each spouse might have contributed to the value of a property, and that will be considered during the process.
  • Prenuptial agreement. A martial agreement is helpful in determining ownership rights for both spouses.

Separate property is non-marital property, so that is one aspect that needs little debate. Martial property gets tricky, because it includes any property either spouse bought or received during the marriage. If you were the one making monthly payments on a boat after the honeymoon, that doesn't necessarily mean the boat is yours.

Custody arrangements, financial situations and health are all factors that affect an Illinois divorce. Equitable property distribution can be a daunting and frustrating task for couples, but there are ways to reach a reasonable settlement.

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