Consider the following scenario: You and your wife have been for ten years. On your tenth anniversary, you tell your wife that you are thinking about buying a boat. She has no particular interest in boats or being on the water, but she tells you that you make enough money to afford it, so it is no problem. For the next year or two, you save some of each paycheck so that you can pay cash for your new watercraft. The boat is titled in your name and you pay all of the associated expenses. Over the next several years, your wife joins you on the boat only a handful of times, while you use it every other weekend or so. As you approach your 15th anniversary, however, your marriage breaks down and you and your wife agree to divorce. Regardless of anything else, it should seem that the boat is yours, free and clear, right? You paid for it, you used it, and it was all done with your wife’s permission. Well, according to Illinois property division laws, it is not quite that simple.
While you may, in fact, be permitted to keep your boat after your divorce, its value will probably need to be offset by assets or property allocated to your wife. This is due to the boat’s disposition as marital property, despite your name being the only one on the title. In this example, you bought the boat after you were married using your normally-generated income. Under law, property acquired after the marriage, with very few exceptions, and especially property purchased with marital assets—like your income—is part of the marital estate. As such, it is subject to equitable distribution based on the statutorily prescribed considerations.