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Complex Asset Division: What Types of Marital Property Are Difficult to Divide?

Complex Asset Division: What Types of Marital Property Are Difficult to Divide?

By: M. Scott Gordon

When you are going through a divorce in the Chicago area, one of the more difficult aspects is usually property division. Under Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/), unless a couple can reach an agreement about a property settlement, marital assets are divided according to a theory known as equitable distribution. What that means is that the court will divide marital assets based on what is fair or equitable to both of the parties in the marriage. In some divorces, the division of marital assets is relatively straightforward. For example, sometimes a married couple has a clear-cut prenuptial agreement that outlines certain steps during property distribution. Or, for instance, sometimes two people have only been married for a very short amount of time and own little property that is classified as “marital” property and thus subject to division. Moreover, couples simply may not have a lot of property regardless of the amount of time they have been married, and as such there are no seriously complicated valuations required.

However, for many couples who have been married for a long time or are dealing with a high net worth divorce, asset division can be extremely complex.

Marital Property That is Often Difficult to Value and Distribute

What are some of the most common types of marital property that are notoriously difficult to divide? We will give you some information about marital property that can be complicated to value and distribute:

  • Art and collectibles: paintings, sculptures, rare books, and other collectibles that are assets of the marriage can be extremely difficult to properly value and distribute because their market values are not objective ones unless sold. Since market values can fluctuate drastically over time, the original purchase price typically is not suggestive of what the item is currently worth. Typically, couples who own art or other collectible items together will both hire an appraiser, and the appraiser will suggest a fair market value.
  • Motor vehicles: whether you own multiple motor vehicles or a variety of vehicles such as classic cars and boats, motor vehicles can also require the help of an experienced appraiser. Sometimes each spouse will hire his or her own appraiser in order to work out a fair market value for these items.
  • Small businesses and business interests: married couples sometimes go into business together, and sometimes one or both of the spouses becomes a partner or silent partner in another business. Dividing marital assets that are also business assets can be extremely complicated. Sometimes one of the spouses will have to buy out the other spouse in order to keep a business running, and businesses can also be complicated to properly value.
  • Investment accounts: many couples in high net worth divorces have investment accounts, stocks, and other intangible assets that can be complicated to divide, often due to tax issues. An experienced Chicago divorce lawyer can help with the process.
  • Commingled property: when spouses mix marital and nonmarital property together, it can be challenging and sometimes impossible to trace out the nonmarital asset (that should not be subject to division).

Seek Advice from a Chicago area Asset Division Lawyer

If you need advice with complex property division in your divorce, an experienced Chicago asset division attorney can help. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates to learn more about the services we provide to families in the Chicago area.