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How does equitable distribution work?

One of the major questions divorcing couples in Illinois face is how a judge will divide up the assets owned by the two spouses. Without a prenuptial agreement in place, a judge will have to determine how to distribute the assets in a legal proceeding. Illinois, like a vast majority of the United States, follows a set of rules known as equitable distribution to guide how assets are divided in divorce cases.

A piece written by the Huffington Post describes the general process of equitable distribution. Basically, a judge looks at a divorcing couple and determines the most equitable way to divide the assets between them, based upon the circumstances of each partner. This is in contrast to the community property laws of nine other states, which divide up property equally between the partners, although a judge will still take age and employment status into consideration in some cases.

However, while community property standards are clearly defined, equitable property rules are more loosely established. You can expect an Illinois judge to hold great latitude in determining how assets are to be divided. Still, some general standards are likely to be applied. For example, a judge is likely to consider each spouse’s ability to provide for him or herself after the divorce is complete. A spouse that has delayed or turned down offers for career advancement to raise children, for example, will typically receive a larger portion of the assets.

Other factors involved in equitable distribution include the health status, age and skill set of the divorcing spouses. Additionally, judges usually look at how long a marriage has lasted. Judges are less likely to award assets from one spouse to the other if the marriage has not lasted long. Finally, alimony and child support can also factor into asset distribution. If a spouse is awarded regular payments of child support, the judge might consider how much the partner receives before awarding additional assets to the individual.

This article is intended to educate the reader on the topic of equitable distribution and is not to be taken as legal advice.

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