Many families today have developed a dynamic in which one spouse’s income is relied on more significantly for the support of the family than the other spouse’s. In some situations the reason is that one party is unemployed or underemployed due to the current economic state. In other situations, the arrangement is a result of one party’s contributions to the family as a homemaker or caretaker of the children. In Illinois, a party may request financial support from their spouse, both while the divorce is pending and for a period of time thereafter. This form of financial support is known as maintenance. For income tax purposes, the I.R.S. uses the term “alimony” instead of “maintenance,” however, the concept is the same.
The parties may reach an agreement as to the terms in which maintenance will be paid or, in absence of an agreement, the court can order the amount of maintenance (spousal support) to be paid. Unlike with child support, there is no set formula or guidelines in Illinois for how maintenance is calculated, meaning the amount and duration is determined on a case-by-case basis. In determining whether or not to award maintenance and if so, the amount and duration, Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that the court shall consider all relevant factors including:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The age of each of the spouses
- The health of each of the spouses
- Each spouse’s present earning capacity
- Each spouse’s future earning capacity
- The financial needs of each spouse
- Contributions made by one spouse to the other spouse’s education or career
- Whether a spouse took on domestic duties or sacrificed education or career opportunities for benefit of the family
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The amount and kind of property awarded to each spouse as part of the divorce, including the tax consequences of the property division
- The amount of time needed for the party seeking maintenance to gain an ability or greater ability to support themselves
Suffice it to say that that Illinois law gives judges broad discretion to determine how much maintenance to award in a particular case. Effective presentation of the facts can make a big difference in the outcome of a maintenance award. If maintenance is an issue in your case, you should contact the attorneys of Kollias & Giese, P.C. to learn about how the law regarding maintenance applies to your case, the range of possible outcomes, and how to best approach your case in light of your objectives.