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Joliet divorce attorneysAs part of the transition from being married to being single that occurs in a divorce, Illinois couples are required to equitably divide all marital assets and debts. This is an issue that can lead to much conflict, and the outcome can have serious financial implications for both spouses. As such, it is important to be prepared by understanding the assets you will be expected to divide and how you can do so in a way that protects your interests.

Examples of Marital Assets

Illinois law defines marital assets as any properties that are acquired by either spouse during the marriage and before any judgment of legal separation, with a few exceptions including assets acquired by one partner through a gift or inheritance, and assets that are designated as non-marital in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Some examples of marital property may be obvious, but others you may not expect. Marital assets can include all of the following:

  • Bank accounts with contributions made during the marriage, whether they are joint accounts or listed under one spouse’s name
  • Real estate property including the marital home, if it was acquired during the marriage
  • Physical property acquired by either spouse, including vehicles, furniture, appliances, jewelry, and other valuables
  • Retirement accounts, including both individual and employer-sponsored accounts, if contributions were made during the marriage
  • Business assets and investments acquired during the marriage, whether they are owned by one spouse or co-owned by both.

Methods of Dividing Marital Property

It is important to note that Illinois requires an “equitable” distribution rather than an “equal” distribution, meaning that neither individual assets nor the entire value of the marital estate must be divided exactly in half between both spouses. This leaves you with options for determining the best way to divide your marital property. For example, you may negotiate with your spouse to come to an agreement that allows each of you to remain financially stable and keep properties that are important to you. You may also negotiate for spousal maintenance to offset imbalances resulting from the division of property. If negotiation is not possible, you can also take your case before the court with the assistance of an attorney.

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Who Gets the Pets in an Illinois Divorce?For many people, pets are like family members. Some people even think of their pets as if they were their children. If you are a pet owner, one issue that may arise during your divorce is who gets to keep the pet(s). Pets can be a big point of contention during a divorce, making for tense situations and heated arguments. Just a few years ago, the state of Illinois treated pets in a divorce like any other piece of marital property. During the allocation of the couple’s property, the pet was awarded to one of the spouses. In 2018, Illinois made a change to the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to allow judges to determine which spouse would be the best caretaker for the animal.

Changing Attitudes

Before the amendment to the Act was passed, pets were treated as property. Most of the time, the spouse who paid for the animal or who had a better financial situation between the two spouses was the one who was awarded the pet. Because of this, pets sometimes lost the person who cared about them the most and some spouses were left with animals they did not actually want.

Now, judges actually treat pets as if they were more like children, rather than property. Judges will look at the entire situation concerning the pet and make a decision based on the pet’s wellbeing. Situations involving pets function much like how custody situations with children function. A spouse can be awarded either full ownership of the pet or joint ownership with their ex-spouse.

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Joliet simplified divorce lawyerSo you have finally made the decision to go ahead and get a divorce. While it may be a weight off of your chest, you may not be able to celebrate as quickly as you had hoped. Some divorces can drag on for months, and highly contested divorces can even drag on for years. The last thing you want when you have decided to end your marriage is to have to deal with your soon-to-be-ex for the next 12 months or more. In some cases, you can apply for a joint simplified divorce, which can significantly decrease the time you will be waiting to get a divorce decree.

What Is a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage?

If you meet certain qualifications, you do not need to spend the time to go to court over every little detail pertaining to your divorce. Typically, joint simplified dissolutions are uncontested divorces, meaning both spouses agree to end their marriage and have little to no arguments about issues pertaining to the divorce, such as spousal support or property division. In a joint simplified dissolution, couples typically only have to appear in court one time, when they are ready to make the divorce final. This can ultimately save thousands of dollars in court costs and lawyer fees.

Qualifications for Joint Simplified Dissolution

Even though it sounds like everyone would want to use the joint simplified dissolution procedure to complete their divorce, not everyone can. You must meet a certain set of requirements before you can begin the simplified process. If all of the following are true, you and your spouse can use the simplified method to complete your divorce:

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