Finances often are at the root of marital discord, and in
divorce, they can complicate an already contentious situation. In
her practice as a family law attorney in Naperville, Danya Grunyk
often sees people let their emotions take over. Here's what to do
1 Get real with your budget
Take an unflinching look at finances. The custodial parent may
end up facing the same household costs, but with a reduced income.
Grunyk says sometimes people fight for the house without truly
understanding all the associated costs.
"Try not to get in a situation where you're living
paycheck-to-paycheck," she says. Think about every expense-even the
small ones-to ensure you have a realistic picture of your financial
According to Grunyk, medical insurance generally continues under
the same parent's policy as before the divorce, unless the other
parent has better coverage. She counsels her clients to file a
Qualified Medical Child Support Order, which allows the custodial
parent to discuss medical issues with the insurance company, even
when they are not the one paying the premiums.
2 Know where you stand
Illinois law views property as either marital or non-marital. In
a divorce, the marital property is split and non-marital property
remains solely with the party who owns it.
"People don't realize it doesn't matter whose name is on the
title of anything," says Grunyk. "If it was accumulated during the
marriage it is marital property. Separate accounts don't mean
anything." There are exceptions, such as gifts and inheritances,
which is why it's so important to understand the specifics of the
particular property you and your spouse own.
Don't forget about deferred compensation. Many employers provide
stock options, pensions or retirement benefits that are earned but
not paid until later. If it was earned during the marriage, it is
marital property, regardless of when the payment is made. "Be
careful if the other party says stock options aren't worth
anything," says Grunyk.
3 Understand that misbehavior doesn't count for
The court's responsibility is to divide marital assets
equitably. Whatever happened in the marriage (or out of it) in most
cases will not influence the division of assets. The law treats the
cheater the same as the cheated. The Illinois Marriage and
Dissolution of Marriage Act specifically notes that fault not be
considered in decisions of property distribution. However, if
marital misconduct resulted in the destruction of marital assets,
such as excessive gambling or irresponsible credit card spending,
the court may take that into consideration.
4 Protect and establish credit
Get a copy of your credit report. If there are mistakes, call
the reporting agency to correct them. If everything is in your
spouse's name, start taking steps immediately to build your own
credit standing. Apply for a credit card, and if you have the means
to make payments, secure a small installment loan to raise a credit
score. As for opening a separate account, that can be tricky.
"It's OK to put money in a separate account for safekeeping,"
Grunyk says. "Just make sure you can provide a detailed accounting
of how you used that money."
See more of Lela's stories here.
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