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Wheaton divorce attorneyAlthough we usually think of marriage as a romantic union, it is also a financial union. When a couple marries, they combine their property, expenses, and debts. Undoing this financial fusion during divorce can quickly become complex. If you are getting divorced, you may have concerns about what property is rightfully yours and what belongs to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Read on to learn about how property is divided in an Illinois divorce and what to do if you need legal guidance during your split.

Illinois is an Equitable Distribution State

When a couple divorces, they have the option of making their own decisions about what property should go to which spouse. However, when divorcing spouses cannot agree to a property distribution arrangement, the court must intervene.

Unlike certain other states, Illinois does not simply split marital property in half and assign 50 percent of the value of the marital estate to each spouse. Instead, Illinois follows equitable distribution laws. According to equitable distribution, marital property is divided equitably, or fairly, depending on the spouses’ financial and life circumstances. Things like each spouse’s income, property, health, future earning capacity, and financial needs are taken into consideration. Before marital property can be divided, the court must determine what property is marital property and eligible for division and what property is separate property which is not divided.

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Wheaton asset division attorneys, QDRO, retirement accountsDuring a divorce, a couple's marital property is divided—property which may include retirement accounts and pensions. In order to allocate retirement accounts and pensions, documents called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) are necessary to divide a couple's retirement assets. However, most people are strangers to these documents until they require one. Therefore, familiarizing yourself with a QDRO, before your divorce proceeding gets off the ground, can be helpful.

What Does a QDRO Do?

A QDRO is a document that helps apportion percentages of any interest you may have in a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or a pension. If your interest is in a public state entity, such as a Chicago Public Schools pension, you will need a document with specialized language known as a QDILRO, though they are functionally very similar.

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Illinois divorce attorney, antiques and collectiblesAmong the issues to resolve in some divorce cases is the division of antiques, collectibles, or other unique items. Although this type of property is commonly at issue in high net worth divorces, antiques and collectibles may be a part of any divorce. In addition to having significant monetary value, these items often have sentimental value. Because of this, it can make dividing this property very difficult, particularly in contentious divorces.

Dividing Antiques and Collectibles

Antiques, unique items, or collections such as art, coins, or wine, are often not easily dividable. Further, it can be difficult to determine the value of these types of items. Contributing to that difficulty is the fact that antiques and collectibles may have significantly increased in value since they were first purchased or acquired.

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Illinois family law attorney, retirement benefits during a divorceAn important part of a divorce proceeding is the division of property. An individual's pension and/or retirement accounts earned and/or acquired during the course of the marriage will be included as part of the marital property that is divided.

Pensions

Under Illinois law, both vested and unvested pensions can be considered marital property. Marital property is all property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. Anything considered marital property must be divided equitably. It does not make any difference which spouse actually earned the pension or whose name the pension is in. An equitable division of property means that the property is divided fairly; however, it is not necessarily divided equally. In some cases, one spouse may be awarded a significantly greater amount of the marital property than the other spouse.

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trust fund, Illinois divorce attorney, division of property upon divorceThe division of marital assets is one of the most important and complex steps in the divorce process. Parties must first determine what the marital assets are and the value of them. Under certain circumstances, property that is part of a trust may be protected from inclusion as marital property. Therefore, it is important for both grantors and beneficiaries of trusts to understand when property in a trust may or may not become part of the division of marital property.

Trust Property 

Under Illinois law, property acquired as a gift or inheritance and kept separate is generally protected from being classified as a marital asset and thus is not part of the division of the marital estate. In such a case, if a beneficiary of a trust divorces, his or her ex-spouse will usually not be given any rights to that non-marital property—a beneficiary of a revocable trust has no legal right to the trust principal or income due to a grantor's right to cancel a trust at any time. Hence, forming a revocable trust is one way in which a grantor can provide for a beneficiary and also protect his or her assets from a beneficiary's ex-spouse at the same time. However, if the funds from a trust are distributed and a beneficiary commingles those funds with marital property, the funds may be considered marital property. Commingling can occur if funds of one spouse are placed into a joint account of both spouses.

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