Deciding who gets what in your divorce, a process also known as asset division, is typically one of the most contentious aspects of ending a marriage. Both spouses tend to have their own ideas about what is fair and reasonable, and there is often very little overlap. Whether you find yourself squabbling over a particular asset or trying to minimize how much your spouse takes in the divorce, careful planning ahead of time can do a lot to protect your assets.

Ideally, the modern marriage should have financial transparency and an understanding between spouses regarding what is fair and reasonable in the event of a divorce. In order to protect themselves, more marriages these days involve prenuptial agreements than in the past. However, even if you married without a prenuptial agreement, it is still possible to protect your own finances in the event of a divorce.

Take steps to keep your separate property separate

The biggest mistake couples make in marriage regarding finances often involves giving a spouse total access to assets and accounts that they did not contribute to prior to the marriage. This process, known as commingling, can turn your separate property owned outright prior to marriage into marital property.

Keeping assets you own separate from marital accounts is in your best interest. You can use these funds to support your family during a marriage, but you should not give your spouse total access to those accounts or assets or deposit them into shared accounts.

If you deposit your savings account into a shared account during marriage, the money you put away prior to getting married now partially belongs to your spouse. The courts will likely rule that way when determining how to split up your assets. Your best option involves taking steps prior to marriage to shield your individual assets from commingling.

What do the Illinois courts consider separate property?

Most of the assets and debts you acquired during marriage become marital property under Illinois state law. They are typically subject to division unless they fall into one of several categories that would define them as separate property. Assets you own outright prior to marriage, as well as any interest they accrue, typically remain separate property provided there is no commingling.

Some assets you obtain during the marriage can remain separate property as well. These often include anything that you inherit, provided your spouse is not also listed as an heir, and gifts that you received from people outside of your marriage. If your parents gift you a car, for example, you will not need to share the value of that car with your spouse in a divorce, in most cases.

Each divorce in Illinois is unique, which means that there is no straightforward way to predict the outcome of the asset division process. Carefully reviewing your own finances and talking with someone who has expertise when it comes to Illinois family law and divorces can help you.