While the diamond in an engagement ring will last forever, marriages do not always last. The statistics indicate that as many as half of first marriages end in divorce. As relationships begin to break down, there may be threats of divorce or the divorce may come as a complete surprise. Planning for divorce and meeting with a divorce attorney are ways to avoid making financial mistakes.
There are the things that you will need to accomplish before meeting with an attorney, such as compiling a list of assets and debts, legal information and identification information. But prior to a meeting, there are some things to keep in mind.
Marital versus non-marital characterization
In Illinois, marital property that you accumulated with a spouse during marriage is subject to just and equitable division by the court. This does not necessarily mean equal division. On the other hand, non-marital property is not subject to division. Some types of property considered non-marital include:
- A gift made solely to one spouse or an inheritance
- Property acquired prior to marriage or after legal separation
- A personal injury or workers’ compensation settlement
It is important to know that commingling assets may change the characterization. For example, if a large gift from your parents to you as part of an early inheritance is placed into a joint bank account the funds may become marital and subject to division. It might be best to keep or set up a separate investment account in just your name for such funds.
In some cases, a non-marital interest may remain even after the sale of a car or home owned before a marriage. An attorney can review your individual circumstances as part of the property division process to determine marital versus non-marital property interests.
Credit cards and joint accounts
Each spouse should ideally have a credit card that is in just his or her name. This establishes an individual credit history, which helps down the road in obtaining an individual loan or mortgage after a divorce.
When a trial separation does not work and you plan to file for divorce, notify joint credit card companies to freeze or cancel the accounts. This may avoid the situation of an angry ex-spouse going on a shopping spree. Balances owed will usually need to be paid before canceling the account.
Timing of divorce
Often you have little control over the timing of a divorce; however, if you are the one planning to leave you have more flexibility. In January and September, the number of divorce filings increases because it is easier to deal with divorce after the holidays and summer vacation.
Another consideration for a non-working spouse is retirement. If you have not had Social Security withheld from your wages, it could impact how much you receive in retirement. A marriage of at least 10 years qualifies the non-working spouse for Social Security benefits through the ex-spouses earnings.
When considering divorce, contact an Illinois family law attorney. The divorce process is complex and mistakes could have lasting consequences. A lawyer can offer assistance and make sure that your rights are protected.