When a couple decides to get married, they generally do so with the intent of building a shared life with one another. In most cases, this means they jointly own virtually all of their assets and share responsibility for their debts. Most people understand that during a divorce in Illinois, the entire marital estate must be divided between the spouses equitably. Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to determine if a particular item or piece of property is actually part of the marital estate. Assets with a particularly high value—such as your marital home—often present unique challenges, especially if only one spouse’s name appears on the title or deed. If your name alone is on the title and mortgage, is the marital home considered a marital asset?
More Than a Name
While it may come as somewhat of a surprise to many people, the name on an asset’s title or deed does not matter very much in most divorce situations. According to Illinois law, the home’s status depends on a number of other factors. You and your spouse may have decided to list only one person’s name on the title or mortgage for financial reasons—such as creditworthiness or tax implications—and doing so is completely reasonable. It is important to realize, however, that your decision will usually have little bearing on the determination of the home as a marital or non-marital asset.
Instead, you and your spouse must take into account when you purchased and paid for the home, and whether you continued to invest in improvements during your marriage. For example, if you purchased the home by yourself several years before you got married and paid the note off completely prior to your marriage, the home would likely be considered yours and not marital property. By contrast, if you and your spouse bought the home after you got married and made each mortgage installment with the money you earned at your job, the house would likely be a marital asset no matter whose name appears on the title.
As you might expect, not every situation is so easily evaluated; other cases may present scenarios that are far more complicated. Assume, for instance, that you signed an agreement to purchase a home with a 15-year mortgage term, and you and your spouse get married three years into the contract. You would most likely make 12 years’ worth of payments with marital property—your regular income. If you and your spouse subsequently divorce, your spouse would be almost certainly be entitled to a portion of the value of the home. You may be able to keep the house if you wish, but you would need to offer some type of compensation to your spouse in exchange for his or her portion, such as other marital property or ongoing cash payments.
If you are considering a divorce in Illinois, it is very important to understand the law and how the proceedings could affect your future. Contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney for answers to your most pressing questions. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, confidential consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.