One of the most difficult and heart-wrenching parts of a divorce is figuring out whether your beloved family heirlooms may be in danger of being included in the asset division process. Sometimes items that have been handed down through generations can be of great monetary value - jewelry, furniture, collectibles - and other times, these items are of great sentimental value.
Fortunately, there are certain steps that individuals can take to protect their family valuables during a divorce. A qualified Illinois divorce attorney can help people considering marriage understand how to protect their assets preemptively and can also help those considering divorce create a plan to protect important assets during property division.
Prenuptial agreements may have a reputation for existing exclusively in the realm of the rich and powerful, but this is simply not the case. They are valuable legal instruments that, if drawn up correctly, can protect the individual property of anyone getting married. Even if family heirlooms are not of particularly great value, a prenuptial agreement can state that all personal property that was owned before the marriage by one spouse will remain the exclusive property of that spouse after divorce.
Without a prenuptial agreement classifying property as marital or non-marital, any property that either spouse owns must be determined to be either personal or marital property. Marital property is subject to division, while personal property is not.
Property that one spouse owned before getting married is usually considered personal property, although certain behaviors - such as mixing that property with marital property - can make it become marital property. Any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, except for property inherited or received as a gift, is generally considered marital property.
If a family heirloom was previously owned by a spouse before getting married, or if it was gifted to a spouse during the marriage, it will likely remain the property of that spouse. If there is any question whether the gift-giver intended the gift to be for only one spouse, an affidavit from the donor can illustrate their intent.
If all these measures fail, keep in mind that marital property must be divided. Spouses can negotiate with each other to reach an agreement that allows each partner to keep things that are important to them. Mediation or collaborative divorce can help spouses negotiate fairly and avoid unnecessary hostilities.
Although the prospect of dividing your assets in a divorce can be daunting, it does not have to be impossible. At Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices, we understand how important it is to protect your precious family belongings and will work tirelessly on your behalf to ensure you obtain a fair division of marital property. We offer free initial consultations in our 4 conveniently located offices. Schedule a meeting with one of our experienced Lombard, IL divorce attorneys today. Call us at 630-755-6426.
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