When you got married, did you and your new spouse move into a home that one of you already owned or did you find a new house? Have you purchased a new home since your marriage? The answers to those two questions could directly impact the division of property process should you and your spouse ever divorce.
According to the law in Illinois, all assets that were owned by either spouse prior to the marriage and which were not subsequently placed into some form of joint ownership, are generally considered an individual’s non-marital property, not subject to division upon divorce. Determining ownership is fairly easy for smaller items. For example, you bought a washing machine before the marriage, it is non-marital. Larger purchases and investments can be a bit more complicated. If you and your spouse moved into a home that you had already paid off at the time of the marriage, the house, in all likelihood, would be considered non-marital property. If, however, you were still paying the house off for the first several years of the marriage and made some major improvements, the funds used to pay off the mortgage and make the improvements were marital funds. Thus, these marital funds used to improve and pay off the mortgage on a non-marital asset should be accounted for during the division of property.
Name on the Deed
Assume that five years into your marriage, you and your spouse purchase a new home. For credit or business reasons, your spouse—with your permission—puts only his or her name on the deed. The mortgage is in his or her name, along with all other legal documentation. Do you stand to lose out in the event of divorce? No, you do not. Under Illinois law, it makes little difference whose name is on a particular note or title. If the purchase was made with marital funds—as in, you and your spouse’s biweekly paychecks being used to make mortgage payments—the house is part of the marital estate....