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Should You Co-Own Your Family Business with Your Former Spouse?Dividing a family business in a divorce is difficult if each spouse has equal ownership of the business. To include the business in the division of property, the spouses must:

  • Agree on who will own the business after the divorce;
  • Thoroughly assess the value of the business; and
  • Find other properties to award in exchange for the business.

Spouses can avoid these complications by choosing to remain co-owners of the business after their divorce. This is not a viable option for every divorce but can be mutually beneficial when spouses agree to it.

Valuation Process

Spouses immediately benefit during the divorce negotiations when they both keep ownership of the family business. They do not need to go through the long and complicated valuation process because they are not dividing the business. Neither spouse will have to give up valuable marital properties in exchange for total ownership of the business. The divorce agreement can presume that each spouse will receive equal value from the business as long as they are co-owners. Skipping the business valuation process saves time and money.

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Pets Are More Than Property in Illinois DivorceMarried couples think of pets as being more like family members than property. For a couple without children, a dog or cat could fill the role of a child in a family. However, Illinois divorce law once considered pets to be marital properties more on the level of inanimate objects. A new law enacted at the beginning of 2018 changed that assumption so that pets are treated more like children. Illinois courts now recognize pet custody agreements and consider the well-being of the pet when determining which party will keep it.

Classifying Pets

The law still defines pets as assets but says that a divorce court can award sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a pet from a marriage. To determine whether the law applies to your pet, you must answer two questions:

  • Is your pet a marital or non-marital property?; and
  • Is your pet a companion animal or service animal?

When you first got the pet can determine whether it is a marital property. A pet may be a non-marital property if one of you owned the pet before the marriage. If you got the pet during your marriage, then it is most likely a marital property. A service animal, such as a seeing-eye dog, will stay with the spouse that it is meant to assist. The law does not define a companion animal, but it is assumed in this case to be any pet that is not a service animal.

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Four Strategies for Financial Success in Your Divorce NegotiationsSavvy divorcees view their division of property as a strategic accumulation of assets instead of a struggle to obtain as many valuable properties as possible. Some assets have a potential value that their current value does not reflect. Just as importantly, other properties may be more costly to hold onto than they are worth. You should prepare for your divorce negotiations by identifying goals. Here are four considerations for obtaining long-term financial success from your divorce agreement:

  1. Assess the Future Value of Your Marital Assets: You should use more than a property's current value when calculating an equitable division of property. Some properties can appreciate in value, such as market investments, real estate, and business interests. Identifying these potential growth assets will help you in choosing which assets you want to keep and preventing your spouse from taking advantage of you. You should ask for additional compensation if your spouse wants an asset that may be worth more than its current value.
  2. Balance Risk and Reward: Relying on the growth of your divorce assets may backfire if the assets do not appreciate in value as estimated. Many growth factors are outside of your control, such as the state of the economy and business markets. You should measure an asset’s potential for growth by both its high-end outcome and likelihood of growth. Protect yourself by keeping some marital assets that are certain to maintain their current value.
  3. Include Expenses in Property Valuation: Real estate, such as the marital home, is an enticing marital property because of its value and use. However, it also comes with many expenses, such as property taxes and upkeep. You should evaluate whether keeping a real property is worth the cost. Are you asking for the marital home because you need the home or because you want to keep a valuable property? You can receive several other properties in exchange for your marital home.
  4. Prioritize Your Vital Properties: Some marital properties are more important to you than to your spouse. Maintaining complete ownership of your business protects your primary source of income. Later in your life, you will rely on your retirement benefits to support your living expenses. You may need to give up other marital properties in order to have complete control over these vital assets.

Making a Plan

You should discuss your financial strategy for your divorce with your attorney before you begin your negotiations. A McHenry County divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you identify key properties and advise you on how to keep them. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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How Cars Factor in Division of PropertyVehicles are among the most valuable properties in a marriage and an important part of the division of property during a divorce. They qualify as marital properties as long as:

  • They were purchased during the marriage;
  • Marital money was used to pay off a vehicle loan; or
  • Marital money was used to pay for major repairs or modifications.

In your marriage, each of you likely has your own vehicle that you primarily use. However, dividing your vehicles in a divorce is not as simple as each of you picking a car. Vehicles are a factor in determining equitable value in a divorce agreement.

Establishing Ownership

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Property Rights for Cohabiting Couples in IllinoisNot everyone who is in a committed relationship desires to legalize the relationship through marriage or domestic partnership. Unfortunately, couples who chose to cohabit without the legal recognition and protections of marriage might want to take into consideration Illinois law on the property rights of unmarried couples if the couple later separates. Most couples do not get into a relationship looking to break up, but in light of a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling, more couples who live together without getting married should consider the ramifications of that decision.

The case involved a judge and a doctor who had lived together and raised children together for over 25 years before splitting up. After the split, the judge sought among other things, a portion of the doctor's interest in a medical practice, as well a fair share of other jointly-owned assets.

The main issue in the Illinois Supreme Court case was whether the judge had property rights to the doctor's interest in the medical practice that she helped her acquire, despite the couple never having been married. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the judge was not entitled to such interest because the couple was not married, despite the parties acting like a married couple by living together, commingling funds, and even exchanging rings. Strangely enough, if the judge had provided her share of any money used to buy the interest in the medical practice as an investment, done outside of the domestic relationship with the doctor, she may have been able to receive restitution.

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