Once a couple makes the decision to divorce, they’ll have a lot of issues to deal with. One of the more complex issues can be property division. If the divorce is contested, there may be disagreement and anger over who gets what or how much. But if the couple chooses mediation, it has a particular advantage.
Property division basics
When a contested divorce begins, one of the first things a judge will do is seek to classify all of the couple’s assets and liabilities into two—marital and non-marital property. Non-marital property is any asset that is owned wholly by one spouse. In most cases, it refers to property that the spouse obtained before the marriage but there are circumstances under which non-marital property was obtained during the marriage. The non-marital property will typically remain with the spouse who owns it.
Everything else is marital property. Since Illinois is an equitable distribution state, the court will divide all marital property in a manner that it deems fair. Note that this does not necessarily mean equal—the court will consider many factors for an equitable division and it may decide that an unequal division is most fair.
How mediation changes the process
Since the court is the one that decides how property is divided in a contested divorce, there’s a high risk for the parties to dislike the final order and feel frustrated with the outcome. However, if the couple can still communicate well enough to mediate their divorce, control of the process remains in their hands, rather than the court’s.
No one knows your property better than you and what things mean more to one or the other spouse. Through mediation, you retain agency over what happens to every asset and liability the two of you own, deciding for yourselves who gets what and how much. This greatly increases the chances that you will be able to live with the outcome and move on once the divorce is final.