There are many ways for an individual to contribute to their household. The most obvious and straightforward is by earning an income. Typically, this involves either running your own business or maintaining steady employment.

Confusion about what constitutes a contribution to the marital estate often leads non-working spouses or spouses who make non-monetary contributions to their households to worry about the financial implications of their divorce.

Spouses who served as the primary wage-earner for their family may also have strong opinions or beliefs about the potential outcome. Developing a better understanding of Illinois family law can help you feel more confident about your financial future when considering a divorce.

Unpaid labor has a profound impact on the marital estate’s overall value

It is more common than ever for both spouses to work outside of the home. However, that is not always the case. There are many situations in which it makes much more sense for one spouse to stay home.

For example, when you have young children, the level of care they require can quickly consume the majority of the income made by a second spouse working. Combine that with the costs of a cleaning service and meal preparation, and it is easy to see that there is a significant contribution to the household made by a non-working spouse.

Equitable division standards include unpaid labor as an important factor

The Illinois courts use equitable distribution as the standard for asset division. When deciding how to split up assets and debts acquired during the marriage, the courts look at many factors, including the length of the marriage and what each spouse contributed to the family.

The courts will consider non-financial contributions, such as the work performed by a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent. Those unpaid endeavors can also impact how likely the court is to assign spousal support to a non-working spouse. After all, while there is a lot of work that comes with maintaining a home or raising children, taking time off of work to do so can impact a person’s future earning potential for many years.

Regardless of who earned the money, the courts will likely split it

Unless you have an ironclad prenuptial agreement that allocates individual income to each spouse, the chances are good that the courts will divide assets between both spouses, even if one spouse made very little or no financial contribution to the family unit.

The exact way in which the courts will divide assets and debts will vary based on issues such as custody and the medical needs of both spouses. While it is not possible to accurately predict how the courts will divide assets, it is important to understand what they will look at when you acquired assets, instead of who acquired them.

Typically speaking, anything earned or acquired during the marriage becomes marital property, barring a prenuptial agreement that addresses those assets or income. Non-working spouses do have a right to the assets their family acquired during the marriage. Understanding the Illinois courts’ approach to asset division can help give you peace of mind and assist in preparing yourself for your financial reality after divorce.