Getting a divorce does not mean that spouses must divide all of their property 50-50. In accordance with Illinois’ equitable distribution approach to the division of marital property, courts attempt to distribute assets between spouses fairly.
In many cases, an equitable division is not an even one. Illinois’ statutory law identifies a variety of factors that are relevant to the disposition of marital property.
The length of a marriage
If spouses were not together for a considerable length of time prior to seeking a divorce, courts may permit them to retain most or all of the assets that they acquired over the course of the marriage. The rationale is that people are unlikely to become financially dependent on their spouses if a marriage lasted briefly.
In contrast, people who were in a marriage together for decades are far more likely to have developed financial dependence on one another. There is also a greater probability that they would have commingled their separate assets, converting them into marital property.
Contributions to the marital estate
Courts give careful consideration to the contribution that each spouse made toward a marital estate. Contributions do not necessarily have to be monetary in order to hold value. Assuming the responsibilities of a homemaker or taking the lead with childcare could entitle someone to a significant percentage of marital assets.
The parties’ earning capacities
Disparities in divorcing spouses’ respective earning capacities can weigh heavily on a court’s analysis. In general, courts distribute resources with an eye toward providing financial security to people who are unable to generate earnings that would be commensurate with their spouse’s income.
Ultimately, courts do not apply a one-size-fits-all formula to property division. Instead, they consider each divorcing couple’s unique circumstances to arrive at a just and reasonable outcome.