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How to avoid surprises when dividing the marital house in divorce

Property division can be an extremely complex matter under Illinois divorce law, and spouses going through a divorce will want legal guidance to achieve a fair settlement. For example, even when both parties think the best course of action is to sell the house they used to share, legal and financial bases have to be covered to ensure a favorable outcome. Otherwise, one spouse could end up short-changed or owning a house he or she doesn't even want.

If both parties are in agreement about the sale, then the matter of distributing any profits should be addressed in divorce negotiations. Those profits could be put in escrow or distributed directly, but in any case, the spouses will want to avoid any tax surprises and, in an equitable way, split the cost of taking the property to market.

A less fortunate situation is when the spouses are in total disagreement about what to do with the house. Maybe both soon-to-be exes want to keep the property, and this situation could tie into a child custody dispute. In that case, a court may have to intervene and decide how the marital property should be divided, and any spouse facing that situation should be apprised of his or her rights.

Other times, the spouses agree that one person should keep the house while the other moves out. This scenario can also seem deceptively simple. If there is equity left in the home, then an accurate valuation is necessary for the spouse moving out to receive a fair payment from the equity. That same spouse will also need to take the right steps to disconnect from legal and financial liabilities linked to the house.

In all of these matters, it is best to have a legal advocate on your side, especially when other complex assets are involved.

Source: Reuters, "Splitsville? How to divide property in a divorce," Geoff Williams, Oct. 7, 2013

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