An Illinois divorce divides a couple’s property.

Property is either deemed “marital” or “non-marital” by an Illinois court in order to determine whether a court can distribute that property between the parties.

In an Illinois divorce, non-marital property automatically goes to the spouse who owns that property.

“[T]he court shall assign each spouse’s non-marital property to that spouse.” 750 ILCS 5/503(d)

Marital property, however, gets distributed by an Illinois divorce court. An Illinois divorce court “shall divide the marital property without regard to marital misconduct in just proportions” 750 ILCS 5/503(d)

Some parties to a divorce do not want any property, they just want the money.

There is no faster way to resolve the distribution of marital property than selling the property.

A temporary motion to sell an asset can begin the process of liquidating the marital estate.

During an Illinois divorce, an Illinois divorce court is allowed or order “appropriate temporary relief including, in the discretion of the court, ordering the purchase or sale of assets and requiring that a party or parties borrow funds in the appropriate circumstances.” 750 ILCS 5/501(a)(3)

Illinois divorce courts are reluctant to begin selling a couple’s assets before a final distribution of those assets.

“[S]ection 501 authorizes the sale of an asset prior to final dissolution, but that is appropriate only in extraordinary circumstances, where such a sale is required to otherwise maintain the status quo prior to final dissolution.” In re Marriage of Gabrys, 2023 IL App (1st) 221763

In the final adjudication of an Illinois divorce, an Illinois divorce court can be convinced that selling marital property is the fairest way to determine that property’s value.

“[O]rdering the properties sold and the proceeds split [is] the only realistic way to divide the parties’ assets in an equitable manner.” In re Marriage of Hamilton, 128 NE 3d 1237 – Ill: Appellate Court, 5th Dist. 2019

A sale of marital property also makes distributing the proceeds easier and probably fairer. Otherwise, a divorce court may estimate that a wife is entitled to the house, while the husband is entitled to the retirement accounts…when the two assets have totally different values.

While an unequal division of marital assets is allowed, an inequitable division of assets is not permitted under Illinois law. “The [Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage] Act does not require an equal division of marital property, but an equitable division” In re Marriage of Jones, 543 NE 2d 119 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1989

Often, the sale of some or all of a couple’s assets is the only way to effectuate an equitable division of the marital estate.

Sometimes, forcing the sale of an asset is a strategy.

A party who insists on the sale of a home puts custody of the children in play because after the sale it will be unknown where the children will live in the future.

A business owner could sell his business at a pittance and then simply restart the business post-divorce under a different name.

A sophisticated asset owner could sell those assets to an insider…and buy the same assets back after the divorce.

Most people want the life they had before the divorce rather than a pile of money that probably cannot buy an equivalent life. This is exactly why their spiteful spouses want to sell everything…to punish their soon-to-be-ex-spouses.

These threats to turn a marital estate into a firesale can be countered.

An Illinois divorce court must value an asset regardless of whether it is marital or non-marital.

“The court shall make specific factual findings as to its classification of assets as marital or non-marital property, values, and other factual findings supporting its property award.” 750 ILCS 5/503(a)

Either party may present evidence of the value of the asset and the court. That evidence may be adopted as credible, legitimate and an alternative to valuing the asset by selling the asset.

“In determining the value of assets or property…the court shall employ a fair market value standard.” 750 ILCS 5/503(k)

If either party is familiar with the asset, they can testify to the asset’s value.

“Ownership of land usually indicates knowledge of the price paid for land, the income generated by it, and potential uses of the land, such that the owner likely has a reasonably good idea of the land’s value. [However, a] landowner may be shown to be incompetent to testify where it is affirmatively shown that special circumstances exist which indicate that [they are] unfamiliar with facts which give the property value.” Hill v. Ben Franklin Savings & Loan Ass’n, 177 Ill. App. 3d 51, 56 (1988)

Without the familiarity of the value of the asset, a party is not an appropriate source for the court to determine the value of the asset.

“[T]he general rule is that testimony of a witness’ opinion is not admissible into evidence” People v. Brown, 558 NE 2d 309 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1990

An expert witness usually provides a valid value of an asset which, therefore, makes a sale unnecessary to determine the assets value

“A witness may…testify as an expert if he or she has knowledge and experience beyond the average citizen that would assist the [finder of fact] in evaluating the evidence.” People v. Loggins, 130 NE 3d 432 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 3rd Div. 2019 (Citations Omitted)

“Generally, as long as the trial court’s valuation of marital assets is within the range testified to by expert witnesses, it will not ordinarily be disturbed on appeal.” In re Marriage of Heroy, 385 Ill. App. 3d 640, 663 (2008)

The party trying to force the sale of an asset may simply refuse to present evidence of the value of the asset in the hopes that the court will be so flummoxed as to agree to a sale. This is not appropriate!

“Neither party should be allowed to benefit…from their own failure to introduce competent evidence of value at trial.” In re Marriage of Donald R., 432 Ill. Dec. 73, 88 (Ill. App. Ct. 2019)

An Illinois divorce court does not abuse its discretion when it refuses to sell an asset. In Re Marriage of Lach, 2024 IL App (2d) 220230-U

If you are trying to sell an asset in your divorce or prevent the sale of an asset in an Illinois divorce, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm today to speak with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney.