“The Little Things Matter” When Couples Get Divorced

“The Little Things Matter” When Couples Get Divorced

By M. Scott Gordon

Are you thinking about filing for divorce in Chicago or the Chicago area, or are you currently in the middle of a divorce in which issues of property division have become contentious? Before a divorce, couples often assume that they should discuss the disposition of big or important pieces of property in the event that they decide to dissolve their marriage. To be sure, prenuptial agreements, also known as premarital agreements, tend to focus on bigger assets and issues such as spousal maintenance. However, according to a recent article in The New York Times, the sentimental value of belongings can often be more important when it comes time to divide property.

Property Division in Illinois

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/) governs the division of property in our state. When you are thinking about filing for divorce, it is important to understand that Illinois is an equitable division state. This means that a court will divide your marital property—both assets and debts—in a manner that it considers equitable (“fair”), rather than equally between the parties. As such, the court will take into account a number of different factors in determining what property should go to each of the divorcing spouses, but it operates primarily on the market value of items. As you might imagine, it would be difficult—if not impossible—for a court system to take into account the sentimental or intrinsic value of property.

How will property be divided that has little to no market value but has substantial sentimental value? For instance, what if you own a painting that a family member created and gave to you as a gift during the marriage? Or how about a sentimental item you purchased on a vacation decades ago?

Recognizing Sentimental Value and Coming to an Agreement

As the article in The New York Times highlights, it is important for people to recognize that certain items may not have monetary value, but that they contain an entirely different kind of value. While the article focuses largely on the division of property following the death of a loved one, the questions about “who gets what,” and deciding how to value sentimental objects, also speak to property division in divorce.

In short, people tend to be angrier and more upset in the long run when they are not able to have items with sentimental value. While a piece of property with a lot of monetary value—such as an automobile or a piece of real property—may help to ease financial burdens in the short term, many of us who experience divisions of assets end up feeling disappointed about the sentimental items we did not fight for when we would have been able to do so.

What is the lesson to be learned? If you and your spouse have property that would not fetch very much money if sold but has a lot of sentimental value to you, you should speak up before property division is concluded. Your divorce lawyer can help you decide the best method for retaining property that has emotional value without necessarily giving up your right to assets that also have a high market valuation.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in the Chicago area

If you have questions about property division during divorce, do not hesitate to discuss your case with an experienced divorce lawyer in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. An advocate at our firm can speak with you today. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC for more information about our services.