What assets am I entitled to during a divorce?


At the start of a divorce, understanding what assets you’re entitled to is a common concern. Illinois is an equitable distribution state with equitable distribution. This means both spouses are entitled to assets obtained during their marriage—even if one person’s name isn’t on a title.

There is no set formula for equitable distribution, and every couple’s outcome depends on the circumstances of the parties and their marriage. Let’s walk through some common questions I hear about the division of assets.

Does equitable division mean assets are divided 50/50? 

The purpose of equitable distribution is to divide marital property fairly, but not necessarily equally. The distribution fluctuates based on size of marital estate, type of asset, each person’s income, length of marriage, age and health, and children, among other things. Marital property includes assets such as real estate, vehicles, furnishings, financial accounts (retirement, checkings, savings, stocks and investments), business interests, pensions and debts.

No two divorces are the same, so it’s helpful to enter your proceedings knowing that a friend or family member’s experience may be different than yours even if you have similar issues.

How are assets divided? 

The first step is creating a comprehensive balance sheet. All marital property, regardless of ownership, will be listed with an assigned value. This helps everyone understand the total value of the marital estate. The next step is deciding how to divide the marital estate in a way that meets your goals and satisfies the statutory equitable distribution requirement. Not all property needs to be physically divided, as the total value of all property assigned to each party is what matters.

Compromise and negotiations are often necessary to meet the goals of both people. I encourage my clients to keep an open mind and think about their best-case scenario coupled with the concessions they are willing to make to reach an agreement and avoid trial, if possible. Attorneys typically present their clients with multiple scenarios to demonstrate what different property division options look like. These may be layered with factors that have a long-term financial impact, such as maintenance and child support.

In some cases, your attorney may consult with or refer you to a CPA, financial advisor, forensic accountant or other financial expert—they can create financial analyses that help you consider the immediate and lasting consequences of equitable distribution outcomes. A financial expert’s role for this purpose may include valuating marital estates and businesses, reviewing complex assets, tax strategy, budgeting and projections involving spousal and child support awards.

Ideally, a couple would agree on the division of their marital property outside of court. This can take place with attorneys and, in some cases, with the help of a skilled and objective mediator who is trained to help couples reach an agreement.

If my spouse and I agree on equitable distribution, do we have to go to court? 

Yes. In Illinois, you must file a court case to get legally divorced. Even if you reach an agreement on equitable distribution outside of court, you will need to go to court to finalize the divorce. However, reaching an agreement outside of court is the recommended approach and can help save time, energy and money.

Are there any assets I am not entitled to?

You are not entitled to non-marital property. Non-marital property includes property acquired before the marriage, property acquired during the marriage through the exchange of non-marital property and assets gifted to or inherited by a person during the marriage. The latter two situations are exceptions to the norm and can be discussed with your attorney.

Contact Shay Formanek to Learn More About Equitable Distribution 

The division of assets can be intimidating and complex. I am passionate about helping my clients understand what they are entitled to and working with them to meet their goals.

If you’re ready to talk about your divorce and marital estate, please reach out to me by requesting a free consultation or calling (847) 868-9584. I can meet with you at our offices in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest or Oak Brook, or at a location that’s convenient for you.

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For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.