Equitable Distribution of Property in Illinois

How will you and your soon-to-be ex divide your property? In Illinois, the answer is governed by state law, which embraces the principle of equitable distribution. But what does “equitable distribution” mean, and how will it impact the outcome of a divorce in real life?

Illinois is an equitable distribution state

Unlike community property states where marital assets are split 50/50, Illinois is an equitable distribution state. This means that marital property is not necessarily divided equally. Rather, it is divided in a manner that is fair, or equitable.

What equitable distribution means for your divorce

The equitable distribution approach can significantly impact the outcome of a divorce. Why? Because it allows for a more personalized division of property based on the unique circumstances of the couple. 

While a 50/50 split may be the natural assumption, in an equitable distribution state, you and your spouse could end up with an unequal division of marital assets if it is deemed equitable by the court.

Several factors are considered by the court in determining equitable distribution in Illinois:

Each spouse's contributions

The court takes into account both financial and non-financial contributions. This includes income brought into the marriage by each spouse. It also includes factors like the role of a stay-at-home parent or homemaker who contributed to the family in non-monetary ways.

Length of the marriage

The length of the marriage can influence the division of assets and debts. A longer marriage may result in a more equal division, reflecting the joint contribution to wealth accumulation over time.

Each person’s economic circumstances

The court also considers the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of division. This includes their income and earning capacity. It also includes their financial and non-financial needs moving forward. The goal is for both people to maintain a reasonable standard of living post-divorce.

These factors allow for a nuanced, case-by-case approach to asset division. They are meant to foster a fair outcome tailored to the unique circumstances of each couple.

Watch: Mastering Illinois Divorce: Understanding the Financial Affidavit Forms


Example of equitable property distribution in Illinois

John and Jane

Suppose John and Jane, married for 20 years, decide to divorce. John is a high-earning CEO, while Jane is a stay-at-home parent. Despite Jane not contributing financially, her role in raising their children and maintaining their home is valued. 

Therefore, in an equitable distribution state like Illinois, Jane may receive more than 50% of the marital assets to reflect her non-financial contributions and her lower earning capacity post-divorce.

Example of an equitable division of debt 

Lisa and Mark

Debts, like assets, are also subject to equitable distribution. For instance, let's imagine another couple, Lisa and Mark. Mark incurred significant business debt during their marriage. Although Lisa was not involved in the business, the debt is considered marital since it was accrued during the marriage. 

However, considering Mark's ability to earn and pay off the debt and Lisa's lack of involvement in the business, the court might assign a larger portion of the debt to Mark.


Does equitable distribution apply to all properties?

No. Only marital property – assets and debts acquired during the marriage – is subject to equitable distribution. A spouse’s separate property (inheritances, gifts, etc.) is excluded from the division of marital property in most cases. Property ownership addressed by a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement may also be safeguarded.

Can I protect my assets from equitable distribution?

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can specify how assets should be divided in the event of a divorce.

How is child custody affected by equitable distribution?

Child custody is determined separately from property division, focusing primarily on the best interests of the child. The same applies to child support. For more information about child support calculations in Illinois, click here. For information about alimony payments in Illinois, click here.

Navigating equitable distribution can be complex, but understanding the basics can help you prepare for what lies ahead. Every situation is unique, and legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances is crucial. 

If you need legal advice or help with your divorce, don't hesitate to reach out to Hello Divorce. Our team of experienced professionals understands the Illinois divorce process and is here to guide you through every step.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.