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 his or her 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” or “spousal support.” 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. In 2016, the maintenance law was changed so that judges would follow a precise formula to calculate a party’s maintenance obligation in most cases. Prior to the law changing, it was difficult to anticipate what the result would be in a maintenance case, but with the revision, outcomes are more certain. 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 first determine whether an award of maintenance is appropriate considering 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
If the court finds that maintenance is appropriate, it can order the award either in accordance with guidelines or in some other fashion. The court must use specific guidelines if the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and there is no multiple family situation.
Under the maintenance guidelines, the amount of maintenance is calculated by taking 30 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income and subtracting 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s income. The guidelines impose a limit to maintenance, as the amount may not result in the receiving spouse getting more than 40 percent of the combined income of the parties. The duration of the award is calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by the applicable factor. For marriages lasting:
- 0 to 5 years, the multiple is .20;
- 5 to 10 years, the multiple is .40;
- 10 to 15 years, the multiple is .60;
- 15 to 20 years, the multiple is .80; and
- 20 or more years, the court may either make the duration equal to the length of the marriage (i.e., a multiple of 1.0) or make maintenance permanent.
The foregoing multiples may change if currently pending legislation is passed.
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.
For a free 30-minute initial consultation, please call (630) 407-1200, or complete the online intake form .