my house is your houseA very common phrase in the Spanish language is “mi casa es su casa,” or “my house is your
house.” I would guess that most individuals have likely heard this phrase and likely understood
the meaning of the phrase; however, what if someone told you that the phrase, “mi casa as su
casa” could play a role in determining property disposition in Illinois divorce proceedings?
Sounds crazy, right? One of the biggest questions for divorcing couples is how to divide income
and assets after separating.

Two very common questions throughout divorce proceedings, are as follows:

(1) My spouse and I have separate bank accounts, do I automatically get to keep the money in
my separate bank account?
(2) My spouse and I have joint bank accounts, I get to keep the money I contributed to the joint
bank account?

The answer to both questions comes down to knowing the difference between “marital” and
“non-marital” property. If these two terms have you shaking your head, don’t fret!

Section 503, of The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which governs Illinois
divorce proceedings, defines these terms as follows:

“Marital” property: all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage.

“Non-Marital” property: (1) property acquired by gift, legacy or descent; (2) property acquired in
exchange for property acquired before the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift,
legacy or descent; (3) property acquired by a spouse after a judgment of legal separation; (4)
property excluded by valid agreement of the parties; (5) any judgment or property obtained by
judgment awarded to a spouse from the other spouse; (6) property acquired before the marriage;
(7) the increase in value of property acquired by a method listed above; and, (8) income from the
property acquired by a method listed above, if the income is not attributable to the personal effort
of a spouse.

Now, back to the questions—generally, the answer to both questions is NO, each spouse does not
automatically retain the right to keep the income in the separate and/or joint bank account.

Pursuant to the above definitions of “marital” and “non-marital” property, generally property
acquired during the marriage is marital, or property of the marriage—not property of each
individual. As such, in Illinois, all marital property is subject to division between the parties.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! This does not mean that each individual will
automatically NOT get to keep the money in the bank accounts, it just means that “money of the
individual” shall be treated as “money of the marriage.”

Therefore, under the laws governing Illinois divorces, the phrase “mi casa es su casa,” should
truly be read as “mi casa es nuestra casa,” or “my house is our house.”

Knowing the difference between “marital” and “non-marital” property is imperative throughout
divorce proceedings, likely more so than understanding the meaning of historical Spanish
phrases; however, finding an attorney who can keep you smiling throughout legal proceedings is
priceless!

by Kristin Flanagan