Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler, P.C.

Dividing unvested stock options and bonuses in a divorce

When people are married in Illinois, it is common for each spouse to have property of their own. However, once the parties are married, any property that is acquired during the marriage is marital property, regardless of which spouse actually obtained the property. When a couple is divorced, they must equitably divide the marital assets. This can be fairly straightforward at times or very complicated in others.

One of the more complicated situations arises when one spouse has stock options or bonuses as a part of their employment. Many of these stock options or bonuses are given to one spouse during the marriage, but it may be years after the marriage when the spouse actually receives the stock options. Also, many times there are different goals that must be met by a spouse prior to receiving the stock option and the spouse may never accomplish those goals.

Despite these facts, the other spouse may still be entitled to the marital portion of those stock options or bonuses when the employee spouse receives them. This is because the stock option or bonus was at least partially earned during the marriage. The marital portion of the stock option is generally determined based on the portion of the stock option earned during the marriage. Once the stock is actually earned, the court can determine how much will be given to each spouse based on how much of the stock option is marital property.

There are many divorces in Illinois each year. Each divorce presents a unique set of circumstances to resolve. However, property division is one that almost every couple will have to sort out to some degree. Some property division is more complicated than others, especially if one spouse has unvested stock options or bonuses. Experienced attorneys understand property division and may be able to sort out the complications.

Source:, "In re Marriage of Timothy J. Peters and Eileen S. Peters," accessed on July 6, 2015

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