Chicago Property Division Lawyer

Protecting Your Rights & Financial Interests in a Divorce

Division of property is often a highly contested issue between divorcing spouses, no matter the extent of their assets. If you are filing for divorce and need assistance with the property division process, do not hesitate to consult with the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. Our Chicago property division attorneys are ready to put our decades of experience to work for you.

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Is Illinois a Community Property or Equitable Distribution State?

In the U.S., there are two systems of property division when it comes to divorce cases. Some states adhere to principles of “equitable distribution” while other states follow the “community property” system of asset distribution. Illinois is an equitable distribution state.

How Property Is Divided in an Illinois Divorce

In Illinois, a couple’s property is deemed to be either “marital property” or “non-marital property" by the court – which will determine which assets are subject to division.

During a divorce proceeding, the marital property and marital debt must be divided as crucial components of the dissolution action. The court is required to order a fair and equitable distribution of property acquired during the marriage in accordance with the criteria set forth in Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Guidance for Complex Financial Matters & Assets

Complex financial matters often stand in the way of a simple and straightforward resolution. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we are highly experienced in guiding our clients through the intricacies of complex financial matters as they pertain to divorce and asset division, no matter how difficult the situation may appear. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge needed to advise you appropriately so that you can make decisions that are cost-effective and reflective of your best interests.

We are experienced in handling divorces that involve significant assets, including:

  • Investment portfolios
  • Real estate holdings
  • Retirement accounts
  • Trusts
  • Partnerships
  • Corporations
  • Family-owned businesses

Valuing and distributing property is part of divorce – but asset division is often much more contentious in high net worth cases. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we are skilled at categorizing and valuing complex assets. We also consult with industry experts, such as tax advisors and financial consultants, to ensure that all property is fairly valued and divided.

Intricate financial issues can surface in a number of situations, especially in:

  • The determination of one’s income for support purposes
  • The valuation of a marital or non-marital estate
  • The dissipation of marital assets
  • The valuation of a business interest or real estate holding
  • The potential tax implications on the parties
  • The consideration of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

Financial matters are a significant component of any divorce, but these issues can become exacerbated when there are substantial assets, debts, or business interests involved. Fortunately, our asset division attorneys in Chicago routinely handle cases involving complex financial matters. We are prepared to tackle your case while keeping your needs and interests in mind.

What Is Considered "Marital Property" in Illinois?

The disposition of property is governed by Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Under Illinois law, all property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is presumed to be marital property. This is true regardless of whose name the property is titled in or whose money was used to purchase the property. Non-marital property is any property acquired before the marriage or property acquired during the marriage by one spouse by way of gift, legacy, or descent.

Under Section 503, the court will consider the following relevant factors when dividing marital property:

  1. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation, or increase or decrease in value of the non-marital or marital property;
  2. The dissipation by each party of the non-marital or marital property;
  3. The value of the property assigned to each spouse;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. The relevant economic circumstances of each spouse when the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to live therein for reasonable periods, to the spouse having custody of the children;
  6. Any obligations and rights arising from a prior marriage of either party;
  7. Any antenuptial agreement of the parties;
  8. The age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs to each of the parties;
  9. The custodial provisions for any children;
  10. Whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance;
  11. The reasonable opportunity of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income; and
  12. The tax consequences of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties.

In dividing assets during dissolution proceedings, a court will try to assign each spouse’s non-marital property to that spouse; however, there are different ways that non-marital property may lose its identity, transmuting the property into marital property. For example, one such way non-marital property may be transmuted into marital property is when one spouse receives a sum of money by way of inheritance, but then deposits the money into the couple’s joint checking account, which effectively co-mingles the non-marital inheritance funds with the couple’s marital funds.

How Are Debts Divided In a Divorce In Illinois?

Similar to assets, debts are divided according to the equitable distribution principle. The first step in dividing debts is to determine which debts are marital and which debts are non-marital. Marital debts are those that were incurred during the marriage for the benefit of the marriage. Non-marital debts, on the other hand, are those that were incurred before the marriage or after the couple separated. Once the court has determined which debts are marital, it will consider several factors to divide them equitably, including:

  • Each spouse's income and earning capacity
  • Each spouse's financial needs and obligations
  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the debt
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The value of the marital property assigned to each spouse
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the division
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements between the parties.

Based on these factors, the court may order that one spouse assume responsibility for certain debts, or it may order that the debts be divided between the spouses in a way that is equitable. It is important to note that the court's decision is based on what it considers to be fair, not necessarily equal, distribution.

Dissipation of Marital Assets

Dissipation is generally defined as the utilization of marital funds by one spouse for their own benefit, for a purpose unrelated to the marriage. Dissipation of marital assets can only be committed during the time period where the marriage is undergoing (or has undergone) an irretrievable breakdown. If you believe that your spouse has dissipated marital assets, the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. can step in and assist you. We have extensive experience helping partners seek justice through dissipation asset tracing in Chicago. Our property division lawyers can also represent you if you have been accused of asset dissipation.

If the court finds that dissipation has been committed by a spouse, it can order that spouse to repay the marital estate. Statutory provisions addressing this issue are found in Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. handles all facets of dissipation cases, including:

  • The investigation of concealed assets
  • The discovery and prosecution of claims for dissipation
  • Defending parties accused of committing dissipation of the marital estate

No case is too complex for our team to handle. We are dedicated to pursuing justice for our clients who have been affected by dissipation or accusations of dissipation. Our attorneys understand that this is a sensitive and difficult situation to be in – we are respectful of your case and remain committed to providing compassionate yet aggressive and results-driven representation.


Seek Guidance from the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C.

The process of valuing and dividing your property can seem overwhelming or even impossible. Our team is here to take the burden off your shoulders and make everything a little easier. Since 2009, we have been helping couples find fair and favorable resolutions to their property dispute during divorce. We look forward to assisting you and your family.

Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. online or by calling (312) 487-2795 for a consultation.

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