“If I file for divorce, how can I protect certain assets (family heirlooms, etc.) from my ex?”
Illinois divorce law divides property into two kinds: non-marital property and marital property. Your non-marital property is considered your separate property and will be given to you in a divorce case. Your spouse will have no claim against your non-marital property. On the other hand, marital property is divided between you and your spouse during the divorce case.
You can identify your non-marital property as follows. Any items which (1) you had from before the marriage or (2) were given to you as a gift or (3) were given to you as an inheritance, would be your non-marital property. All other items acquired during the marriage would be marital property.
Your family heirlooms would most likely be your separate non-marital property because either (1) you had them before the marriage or (2) you received them as a gift from a relative or (3) you received them as an inheritance at the death of a relative. Since the heirlooms would be your separate non-marital property, your spouse would have no claim against them and the items would be awarded to you in the divorce case.
You should be careful to keep the family heirlooms in your own name. If you somehow put your spouse’s name on the title to the heirloom, it may become marital property. In that case, your spouse would have a claim in the divorce case to the family heirloom.
About the author of this Illinois Divorce FAQ:
Jay A. Frank is a divorce and matrimonial practitioner in Chicago with over 35 years of experience. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. He can be reached at (312) 828-9600. View his Divorce Magazine profile.