Because many Illinois couples today get married well after they complete their education and begin building their net worth, many marriages begin when one or both spouses already own property. When one spouse outright owns or has a mortgage on a house and the other spouse moves in, the process of dividing the value of the house in a divorce can be complex and contentious.
The spouse who owns the house will generally argue that, since he or she owned the home prior to the marriage, it is his or her individual property. The spouse who lived in the home, often for many years or even decades, will argue that without his or her financial assistance or help around the house, the home – and the spouse who owns it – would not have the property value or equity ownership it has today. For a brief overview of how individually owned property may be handled in a divorce, read this blog and then get your specific questions answered by an experienced Illinois asset division attorney.
Determining Whether a Home is Personal or Marital Property
When a spouse owns all or part of a home when a marriage begins, that preexisting equity generally remains the property of that spouse. This is especially true when a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement exists that protects the spouse’s equity in the home.
However, once a marriage begins, all income, property, and other assets either spouse acquires are marital property. So if a spouse owns a home but has a mortgage on it, any value the home accumulates after the marriage begins will generally belong to both spouses.
This can be further complicated if one spouse helps increase the value of the house by contributing to major renovations with finances or personal labor. That spouse’s contributions can be linked to the consumer price index and their share of the value increase will be given to them in a divorce. And even if one spouse never contributes financially at all, but instead does the hard work of raising a couple’s children and maintaining the home, he or she will be entitled to a fair portion of the marital assets. There are even instances of judges reaching into a spouse’s personal property to make the marital asset division fair.
All of the above remains true regardless of which spouse’s name is on the title of the home. As long as a mortgage was paid or the home increased in value during the marriage, and a prenuptial agreement signed by both parties does not specifically protect the value of the home, both spouses likely maintain ownership of at least part of the home’s value as marital property.
Meet with a Lombard, IL Asset Division Lawyer
At A. Traub & Associates, our DuPage County divorce attorneys are prepared to deal with even the most complex asset division cases. With many years of experience advocating for spouses during divorce, we can ensure you get the full amount of marital assets to which you are entitled. Call us today at 630-426-0196 to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about the customized strategy we would use for your situation.