Divorce is undoubtedly a challenging chapter in anyone’s life, fraught with emotional turmoil and legal complexities. The dissolution of a marriage has profound financial implications for divorcing spouses beyond just splitting marital property

Among the myriad issues that divorcing couples must contend with, spousal support or spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony)  often emerges as a critical aspect that requires careful consideration. It is crucial to allow dependent spouses to develop their financial independence after a divorce.  

In Illinois, understanding your rights and obligations is pivotal to ensuring a fair and just resolution. But myths abound about who qualifies, how much is rewarded, and for how long the payments must be made. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of maintenance and spousal support, shedding light on the key factors that shape these arrangements.

The Basics of Spousal Support in Illinois

The purpose of court-mandated maintenance payments is to ensure that the party with a lower or non-existent income can support themselves after a divorce. It can be awarded to either spouse but is most commonly given to those who have put a career on hold to care for children or the household.

The primary aim is to address any economic disparities between the spouses that arise due to the end of the marriage. In Illinois, maintenance payments are not an automatic entitlement, and various factors come into play when determining its necessity and amount

There are several different types of spousal support orders in this state:

  • Temporary or fixed-term support: Granted during the divorce proceedings, temporary maintenance provides financial support until a final settlement is reached.
  • Permanent support: Reserved for cases where one spouse cannot achieve financial independence, permanent maintenance is ongoing support that continues until specific conditions are met.
  • Rehabilitative/ Reviewable maintenance: Designed to support a spouse until they can become self-supporting, rehabilitative maintenance may also cover education or training expenses to enhance employability and is periodically reviewed by the court.

During the divorce process, the court will determine if a maintenance agreement is warranted after an agreement is reached on other issues such as asset allocation, parental responsibilities, and child support.

Initially, the court evaluates the appropriateness of maintenance or an award based on statutory guidelines, emphasizing that it’s not universally applicable, even when there’s a significant income disparity between spouses. Notably, if a spouse is already financially supported by other sources or is cohabitating in a committed manner with someone new, maintenance may be deemed unnecessary.

Factors Influencing Spousal Support

Many misconceptions exist about how support amounts should be calculated — and many people have strong emotions regarding the concept of spousal support payments.

Illinois courts consider many elements when awarding maintenance funds, including:

  • Income disparities and whether one partner worked as a homemaker
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Both spouses’ age, health, education level, and work experience
  • Monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage
  • Financial needs and obligations
  • Child custody arrangements
  • The standard of living during the marriage

While there are no fixed formulas, the amount awarded is typically calculated by taking 33.33% of the supporting partner’s income minus 25% of the recipient’s income. State law prohibits an award over 40% of the parties’ combined income. 

The duration of the payments is determined by multiplying the marriage length at the time of the divorce filing by a percentage based on the following brackets:

  • Less than 5 years: 20%
  • 5-6 years: 24%
  • 6-7 years: 28%
  • 7-8 years: 32%
  • 8-9 years: 36%
  • 9-10 years: 40%
  • Up to 20 years or more, which equals 100% of the marriage duration or an indefinite term

It’s also important to consider that following the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, effective December 31, 2018, maintenance is no longer tax deductible for the payer or taxable as income for the recipient

Thus, strategic discussions with an experienced family law attorney are essential for those anticipating the arrangement of spousal support. Illinois law allows for the modification of these orders under certain circumstances, such as a significant change in either party’s income, health issues, or retirement.

Negotiating Equitable Solutions

During the dissolution of a marriage, emotions can run high. But pragmatic negotiations considering the total financial picture often yield the most equitable long-term solution for both spouses.

Maintenance and determination of spousal support are critical components of divorce proceedings, necessitating a thorough understanding of the legal landscape in Illinois. By comprehending the factors that influence spousal support awards, the types available, and the potential for modification, individuals can approach these proceedings with greater confidence and peace of mind. 

Consulting with a skilled family law advocate is vital to protecting your rights and ensuring a fair resolution. When you partner with the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, we’ll assess your unique situation, defend your rights and interests, and guide you through the legal processes associated with spousal support and parental responsibility allocation. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with our caring and compassionate divorce law specialists.