If you believe that divorce requires you and your spouse to split all marital assets in half, you are sorely mistaken. In Illinois, the rules of equitable distribution reign supreme in divorce cases. That means that you and your partner are to share and split assets fairly. What is fair in the eyes of the law and what you have in mind may not be the same things. Here’s how the courts level the playing field when it comes to equitable distribution and divorce.

To determine who gets what, proper ownership status is necessary. You must properly account for all assets and debts during the dissolution of your marriage. You must also identify which party has ownership rights as of the date of your divorce filing. You and your spouse must provide the courts with an inventory of private and marital assets, i.e., real estate, inheritances, financial and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, artwork, vehicles, basically everything.

Marital property must become separate. Not all spouses play fair in divorce court. Illegally transferring and hiding assets is a common tactic some people use to cheat their partners. If you suspect there are items your partner is misleading the courts about during the property division process, make your suspicions known to protect your interests. A prenuptial agreement can also affect how the courts distribute marital property in a divorce. The courts also use its evaluation of each spouse’s circumstances, negotiations and discretion to determine the outcome of property in the divorce settlement.