Your divorce is unique. However, decades of cases with some similar factors or issues may have been decided by appellate courts in Illinois. This history, or precedent, can be used by current courts to aid judges in making decisions. Knowing the numbers in Illinois divorces can help divorce lawyers make projections and advise you about possible outcomes.
Divorce by the numbers? You make it sound like a business.
It is hardly a game, but after the tears and the anger, and after resolving what will happen to the children, it is very much like the dissolution of a business partnership. Marriage is not only a family in the spiritual sense, but it is also an economic unit which has assets and incomes.
What are the numbers involved?
All of them. Numbers have to do with the economic aspects of the marriage. It is not unusual for a spouse who is consulting me to be almost totally unknowledgeable about incomes and assets of the parties. And this is not a man-woman thing. As often as not it is the woman who controls and attends to the finances of the family.
Sometimes you ask one of these unknowing persons if they signed a joint income tax return. The answer is yes, but he or she did not read what was signed. There is no excuse for being involved in a marriage in which you do not know the numbers.
At what numbers should I be looking?
The primary financial document is the income tax return. It will tell you the amounts of employment income. The tax return will also show if significant assets, including stock, were sold, and if assets earned income (for example rents, dividends or interest).
Most people keep their income tax returns for at least seven years. This is because the limitation on the IRS for a claim of under reporting income is six years and the longest the IRS has to review a non-fraudulent claim is seven years.
You should also know where the income tax returns (and other important documents) are kept. If, however, you are contemplating a divorce in the foreseeable future, you should make copies of the last three tax returns and store the copies of the tax returns someplace outside of the house.
In the event of a divorce what happens to assets I do not know about?
If you have a suspicion your spouse may be secreting assets (or sources of income), it is a matter of your lawyer conducting a thorough investigation (discovery). The judge cannot divide an unknown asset.
If the asset is fraudulently concealed from you at the time the divorce judgment is entered, you may be able to have the property settlement vacated so the disposition of the newly found asset may be adjudicated, but there is generally a two year limitation for bringing proceedings to vacate the judgment. The time during which the asset was fraudulently concealed can, however, be excluded in computing the period.
Do numbers apply to the settlement of the financial aspects of a divorce?
Yes. Marital property (property acquired during the marriage, excluding gifts or inheritance which are kept in the recipient’s name) usually falls in the range of one spouse not receiving more than 60 percent of the marital property and not less than 40 percent. While this is the usual range, exceptional facts make for exceptional results.
The primary factor impacting on the division of marital property is the relative ability of the spouses to acquire assets and income after the divorce. If one spouse has developed a good income producing capacity, while the other spouse did not develop such an ability, the division of assets will be tipped in favor of the economically disadvantaged spouse.