Layoffs, shutdowns, reduced work hours and childcare challenges have affected nearly everyone’s lives over the past year due to the pandemic. For couples already experiencing marital difficulties when the stay-at-home orders began, life became even more complicated.
With 2021 in full swing and vaccines bringing the promise of life returning closer to normal later this year, many of those spouses are considering whether and when they should file for divorce. Much of that may depend upon you and your spouse’s financial circumstances over the coming months.
Advantages of filing now
When assessing your situation and the best timing for filing for divorce, it’s advisable to talk to a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands why filing early can make sense in many cases, including:
- Accounting is more straightforward as all financial documentation from 2020 is readily available
- You expect an income windfall in 2021 and want to protect as much of that income as possible from being divided
- Despite financial considerations, the timing is right for your family to move on
Advantages of filing later
Economic uncertainty may be one of the biggest arguments for waiting to file for divorce this year. Some of the reasons for holding off include:
- Your income or business revenues are difficult to predict for 2021
- Income for a support-paying spouse took a hit in 2020. If they haven’t filed taxes yet, support payments could be based on 2019 earnings, which may be unrealistic at this time
- You want to take advantage of filing a joint tax return for 2021
Remember, marital status for income tax purposes is determined as of Dec. 31. Those who petition for divorce before that date aren’t eligible for filing taxes jointly for that year.
Finding the best timing for you and your family
Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning spouses receive a fair share of marital assets. Equitable doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement in place, all money earned by spouses during the marriage is considered a marital asset and subject to division.
With the uncertainty of the past year adding more stress for divorcing couples, an experienced lawyer can advise you about timing that makes sense for your situation, especially considering the current economy, your financial circumstances and what’s best for your family.