During the divorce process in Illinois, marital assets are divided equitably by the court. Factors such as spousal contribution and debt are considered before the judge determines the suitable division. Another important factor that affects the allocation of assets is their individual value. With some assets, such as money in a bank account, it is a fixed amount. The worth of more complex assets, such as real estate, antiques and stocks may be difficult to define because the value may fluctuate, at times even daily.

Fixing the date to determine the value of assets

If there is a period of weeks or months between the marital separation, the time of filing, or the final dissolution of the marriage, the value of these assets may have undergone a substantial change. Choosing a date at which to set the monetary value of an asset may result in a significant gain or loss for one spouse in the proceedings, and the way that this date is determined is not always fixed.

Illinois law sets the valuation date at or near the time of the trial. Sometimes the date is based on the filing of the paperwork for separation or divorce. At times, a couple who seek legal separation may have a trial for the separation and then a later trial to finalize the dissolvement of their union. In these cases, the court may choose to determine the value of the property at either trial, or one of the spouses may choose the date.

Bifurcation of a case often affects the date of valuation

The court may allow the case to be divided into two separate parts, which is called bifurcation. Illinois courts are not quick to allow bifurcation, but it is justified in certain instances, including the following:

  • When there is a delayed property settlement or child custody battle
  • When maintenance payments would make a difference on taxes
  • When a bankruptcy is involved

When this happens, the marital status and the other issue are considered separately, and the date chosen must be determined based on one trial or the other. Spouses who delay the process through bifurcation or other means may find themselves at an advantage, but these actions can also backfire. The date cannot be changed once it is set, and property may just as easily lose value as gain it.

Property division is often one of the most disputed parts of the dissolution of a marriage, and the more assets a couple has, the longer the process is likely to take. A spouse who is involved in a complicated division process can benefit from the advice of an attorney who has experience with the Illinois legal system.