When Illinois couples end their marriages, one of the primary tasks they must complete is dividing the marital property and debt. When they begin researching how this is done, they will most likely come across the term “equitable distribution.” Understanding what this means could change the strategy each party enlists as part of the property division process during the divorce.

The first thing couples need to know about equitable distribution is that it does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of property or debt. Instead, the court will look at numerous factors such as each party’s financial contributions during the marriage, the debts of the parties and the couple’s assets. Other factors include how long the parties were married and future earning power and employability. After considering all relevant factors, the court will then make a determination regarding the division of the couple’s property and debts.

The second thing couples need to know is that Illinois is an equitable distribution state. This means this method of property division during a divorce applies to all couples ending their marriages here in the state. So, they may want to be prepared to make an argument regarding this issue when they go to court. Of course, a couple could always negotiate their own settlement. As long as it does not give one spouse an unfair portion of the property or debts of the couple, the court will most likely approve it.

Whether a couple wants to create a settlement or take the issue before the court, it would be beneficial to first determine what each party will require to begin his or her post-divorce life. Thereafter, property values may need to be assessed, calculations may need to be made and more in order to comply with the tenets of equitable distribution. It would certainly help to work with an experienced family law attorney in order to make sure that each party’s rights are protected, that the settlement is fair considering the family’s particular circumstances and it will pass the scrutiny of the court.