Understanding Commingled Property in Divorce

Dividing marital property is among the biggest challenges for any couple going through a divorce. In fact, the difficulties often arise before reaching the division phase. Simply identifying marital property can prove to be an arduous process, due to the complexities of the law in Illinois and the way in which many married couples maintain their household finances. A large number of couples may find themselves dealing with commingled property, without even realizing how they got to that point.

The Basics

Illinois law provides that any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered part of the marital estate, except property that was acquired through gift, legacy, or descent. The law also creates exceptions for assets received in exchange for (e.g. proceeds from selling) non-marital property, whether the original property was a gift, inheritance, or acquired before the marriage. While the law attempts to be fairly straightforward, the realities of many marriages make things considerably more complicated.

What’s Mine Is Yours

Not every couple will do so, but many, if not most, people enter a marriage with the expectation of completely sharing a life together. They are not considering the possibility of the marriage ending at some point, and, thus, are perfectly willing to combine assets and property. This usually includes property that was owned prior to the marriage, which according to the laws governing divorce would be non-marital property.

Assume, for example, that you had $25,000 in a savings account before you got married. Following the wedding, you added your spouse’s name to the account. You both continued to save money in the account, as well as using the funds for various purposes related to the marriage. Such a situation would be very reasonable for a married couple. Now, assume your marriage ended in divorce. The law says any property acquired before the marriage is not marital property, so the original $25,000 should be yours, no questions asked, right? Maybe not.

Commingled Property

You should also know that law does include provisions for assets that have been combined during a marriage, referring to them as commingled property. By using your assets in such a way that causes their identity as non-marital property to be lost, or in any way that could be considered as a gift to the marriage, the property may be considered commingled and transmuted to the marital estate. In such a case, you would be granted additional consideration for your sizable contribution to the marital estate, but you would not be able to recover your property dollar for dollar.

Property Division Help

Dealing with commingled property in divorce can be complicated. If you have questions, contact an experienced Orland Park divorce lawyer can help you find the answers you need. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free initial consultation at Kezy & Associates today.