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Why a stay-at-home spouse might claim the other spouse’s business

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Family Law

People often undervalue the role of a stay-at-home spouse, especially when it comes to divorce proceedings. Despite not being directly involved in the business their partner owns, stay-at-home spouses may have a valid claim to a portion of their spouse’s business assets.

Understanding the rationale sheds light on the complexities of divorce law in Illinois.

Contributions to the marital estate

About 1.2 million small businesses operate in Illinois. While one spouse actively ran a business, the stay-at-home spouse likely provided support, managing household responsibilities, caring for children and facilitating the other spouse’s career advancement. Illinois recognizes these contributions as integral to the overall success of the marital partnership.

Equitable distribution of assets

Illinois follows the principle of equitable distribution, which aims to divide marital property fairly between spouses upon divorce. This means that even if one spouse solely owns the business, its value may be part of the marital estate subject to division. The court assesses various factors, including the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s financial contributions and their respective roles within the marriage, to determine a fair distribution of assets.

Economic hardship and future earning potential

Some stay-at-home spouses sacrifice their career or educational pursuits to support their partner’s business endeavors. Divorce can pose significant economic challenges for them. Recognizing this, Illinois courts may award the stay-at-home spouse a portion of the other spouse’s business to mitigate the economic disparity that could arise post-divorce.

The best interests of the family

One goal in asset division is to ensure that both parties can maintain a reasonable standard of living post-divorce. This can especially be true if they have minor children.

Including stay-at-home spouses in the division of business assets underscores the importance of their role within the marriage and upholds fairness under Illinois divorce law.