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Four Types of Personal Documents You Need for Your DivorceYou and your divorce attorney will spend much of the process going over your finances to determine how you will divide them with your spouse. Your attorney needs official documentation to have accurate financial information and know if your spouse is telling the truth during negotiations. While your attorney is skilled at finding these documents, you can save yourself time and legal expense by providing them yourself. You can anticipate that your attorney will need several documents during your initial meetings about your divorce:

  1. Proof of Income: How much money you and your spouse make will determine the division of child support and whether spousal maintenance will be awarded. Copies of your and your spouse’s recent check stubs will show your regular pay and how much money you have earned this year. Recent income tax returns will give a larger picture for the last several years. You may need other financial records if you or your spouse are self-employed, such as check registers and bank statements.
  2. Financial Statements: Speaking of bank statements, you will need statements showing the current balances of financial accounts, both shared and individual. You will divide the money from your joint checking and savings accounts, as well as any joint investments, such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. Individual investments, such as retirement accounts, can be subject to division if they were accrued during your marriage. It is also wise to know your spouse’s non-marital financial assets, which are part of their total worth.
  3. Property Records: You should have the contracts for any major properties you purchased during your marriage, such as the deed to your home and the titles of your vehicles. You should also present any statements related to loan payments on these properties, such as your mortgage. These records will help your attorney determine the actual value of these properties and whether one of you has a stronger claim to a property.
  4. Debt Statements: Spouses divide their debts during their divorce, just as they divide their assets. Besides the previously mentioned property loan statements, you should present statements for any other debts, such as credit cards, medical bills, or bank loans.

Contact a McHenry County Divorce Lawyer

Providing all of these documents will give your attorney a head start in preparing for your divorce. At Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, we know that the search for financial information does not stop there. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, divorce attorney will thoroughly search for any hidden or overlooked assets from your marriage. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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A Prenuptial Agreement Can Protect Your Business During DivorceBusiness owners must prioritize securing their business and its assets during a divorce. In most cases, a business is a marital property that is included during the division of property. Business owners are unlikely to split ownership with a divorcing spouse who did not own or help run the business during their marriage. However, the two sides may dispute the value of the business and how much the other spouse should receive to offset that value. As a business owner, you can plan ahead to protect your business during a potential divorce by including it in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Why Is Your Business a Marital Property?

Spouses normally differentiate between marital and nonmarital properties based on whether one of them purchased the property before their marriage. However, a business predating a marriage is not enough evidence to make it a nonmarital property:

  • You may have invested marital money into your business; 
  • Your business may be the primary source of income in your marriage; and
  • Your spouse may have sacrificed part of his or her career to allow you to focus on your business.

Your spouse can claim that the amount that your business increased in value during your marriage is marital property.

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Divorcees Must Modify Deed, Mortgage for Marital HomeYou and your spouse will decide which of you will retain ownership of your marital home after your divorce. However, the division of property in a divorce agreement is not enough to completely transfer ownership of the home to one person. As long as both of your names are on the deed and mortgage, you both will have some control over and responsibility for the home. The most efficient way to settle the issue is to transfer the deed and modify the mortgage while your divorce is still ongoing.

Potential Problems

Your divorce agreement states your intention for one of you to occupy and control your marital home after your divorce. It does not automatically change your deed or mortgage. Failing to update these documents may not have immediate consequences but will eventually cause complications:

  • One of you cannot sell the home without the other’s approval if the deed still says that you both own the home;
  • The person who no longer lives in the home could be liable for property tax and mortgage payments if the occupant does not pay them; and
  • If the occupant files for bankruptcy, the mortgage lender can pressure the other person on the mortgage to pay the remainder.

It is easier to settle these issues between each other now than returning to court years later when you are having problems.

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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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