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What You Need to Know About Spousal Support During Your Illinois Divorce

Posted on in Spousal Maintenance/Alimony

Elmhurst family law attorney for spousal support

Out of the different types of financial matters that couples will need to address during a divorce, spousal support can often be one of the most contentious issues. While parents will usually recognize that child support will be necessary to provide for their children’s needs, and couples understand that they will need to divide their marital property fairly and equitably, a spouse may be unhappy about the requirement to make ongoing payments to their former partner. However, there are situations where this form of support may be necessary, and it is important for spouses to understand how the laws that address this issue will apply in their case.

When addressing matters related to spousal support and other financial issues during your divorce, you can improve your chances of achieving a positive outcome by working with an experienced divorce attorney. Your lawyer can explain your rights and ensure that all financial factors in your case are considered properly, and they can act as your legal advocate, making sure your rights and interests will be protected in the decisions that are made.

When Is Spousal Support Appropriate?

Spousal support or alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance in Illinois law. Contrary to popular belief, this form of support is not meant to serve as punishment for a spouse who was at fault for the breakdown of a marriage. In fact, Illinois law states that determinations regarding spousal maintenance will be made “without regard to marital misconduct.” Instead, spousal support is meant to provide spouses with the financial resources they need to maintain their accustomed standard of living. If one party earns a lower income and would be unable to fully support themselves on their own, they may request that the other spouse pay them spousal support, either to provide for their ongoing needs or to allow them enough time to pursue education or career training that will allow them to become self-supporting.

Spousal maintenance is not always appropriate, and in fact, family law judges have a great deal of discretion as to whether this type of support should be awarded. Each spouse may provide information and make arguments as to whether spousal maintenance would be appropriate, and a judge may weigh multiple different factors when deciding this issue. These factors include:

  • Each party’s income and property, including marital assets allocated during divorce and any assets owned separately by either spouse. All forms of income earned by either spouse will be considered, including income generated through the property they currently own or will own after the divorce is finalized. The spouses’ financial obligations will also be considered, including any child support obligations for children they share or obligations to pay child support or spousal support from a previous relationship.

  • Each party’s needs. The spouses’ ongoing expenses may be considered, including rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, transportation expenses, debts, and any other costs they will be required to pay. These expenses may be based on what would be needed for each spouse to maintain the standard of living the couple enjoyed while they were married. The court may also look at how the parties’ age and health will affect their ongoing needs.

  • Each party’s current and future ability to earn an income. In addition to looking at what each spouse currently earns, their individual work experience, educational degrees, or training may be considered. The court may look at whether the spouse who is asking to receive spousal support has experienced any impairment to their income-earning abilities because they devoted themselves to household duties during the marriage and delayed or chose not to pursue education, training, or career opportunities. A judge may also consider whether a spouse who is unable to fully support themselves will need time to pursue education or training that would allow them to obtain employment and become self-supporting.

  • Decisions related to the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time. One spouse’s ongoing responsibilities toward their children may affect their ability to obtain and maintain employment, especially if a parent will be providing care for young children that require higher levels of supervision. If one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent, they will likely wish to continue in this role following divorce, and financial support from the other spouse may be necessary to ensure that they will be able to cover their ongoing expenses while providing care for their children.

  • Contributions to career advancement. In many marriages, spouses work together to support each other, and this may include efforts by one spouse to help the other spouse advance their career and increase the income they are able to earn. A person may have helped their spouse obtain education, including by helping pay college tuition or assisting with homework or other educational activities. A spouse may also have assisted with career advancement by managing household responsibilities to ensure that their partner would be able to devote time and effort toward education, training, or work-related tasks. In these cases, spousal support may allow a person to benefit from the effort they have put in to help their partner increase their income-earning ability.

  • Marital agreements. If a couple has a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that specifies whether spousal maintenance will be paid or describes the amount and duration of payments that will be made following divorce, the terms of this agreement will usually be followed. However, if the terms of a prenup or postnup related to spousal support would cause undue hardship for one spouse due to circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable when the agreement was created, the court may award spousal maintenance as necessary to help that spouse avoid undue hardship.

  • Tax considerations. The court may consider whether either party will experience tax consequences related to spousal support, and if necessary, it may adjust the amount of support to ensure that the parties can avoid financial hardship.

  • Any other applicable factors. Each divorce case is unique, and certain issues may affect the spouses that may not be covered by the other factors that courts consider when addressing spousal support. Both parties may describe extraordinary circumstances that will affect their ability to support themselves and maintain their standard of living, asking the court to consider these issues when determining whether spousal maintenance should be awarded.

How Are Spousal Support Payments Calculated?

While a judge will have the discretion to determine whether or not to award spousal support, if they decide that support is appropriate, they will usually use a formula provided in Illinois law to determine the amount that should be paid. Under this formula, 25 percent of the recipient’s net annual income is subtracted from 33 ⅓ percent of the payor’s net annual income, and the resulting amount will be paid as support on an annual basis. The amount of the recipient’s net annual income plus the spousal support they receive cannot be more than 40 percent of the parties’ combined net annual income.

To better understand how spousal maintenance payments are calculated, it can be helpful to consider some examples. In one theoretical situation, one spouse may earn an annual income of $180,000, while the other earns $30,000. 33 ⅓ percent of $180,000 is $60,000, and 25 percent of $30,000 is $7,500. Subtracting $7,500 from $60,000 yields a total of $52,500. Since spousal support is usually paid on a monthly basis, the higher-earning spouse would pay the other spouse $4,375 per month.

In another theoretical situation, one spouse may earn an annual income of $100,000, while the other earns $50,000. 33 ⅓ percent of $100,000 is $33,333.33, and 25 percent of $50,000 is $12,500. Subtracting $12,500 from $33,333.33 yields a total of $20,833.33. However, 40 percent of the couple’s combined annual income of $150,000 is $60,000. This means that the amount of support the lower-earning spouse can receive on an annual basis would be lowered to $10,000, or $833.33 per month.

It is also important to note that the guidelines for calculating spousal maintenance only apply in cases where spouses earn a combined gross annual income of less than $500,000. For couples who earn more than this amount, a judge will consider all applicable factors to determine an appropriate amount of support based on the facts and circumstances of the couple’s unique situation.

How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Be Paid?

The duration of spousal support payments will be based on the amount of time a couple was married. Illinois law provides percentages that will be used for marriages of different lengths. These percentages are:

  • Less than five years: 20 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between five and six years: 24 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between six and seven years: 28 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between seven and eight years: 32 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between eight and nine years: 36 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between nine and 10 years: 40 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 10 and 11 years: 44 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 11 and 12 years: 48 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 12 and 13 years: 52 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 13 and 14 years: 56 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 14 and 15 years: 60 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 15 and 16 years: 64 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 16 and 17 years: 68 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 17 and 18 years: 72 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 18 and 19 years: 76 percent of the length of the marriage

  • Between 19 and 20 years: 80 percent of the length of the marriage

  • 20 years or more: 100 percent of the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term

Depending on the circumstances of the case, spousal support may be awarded for a fixed term, using the percentages detailed above. At the end of this term, the obligation to pay support will be terminated, and a spouse will be barred from receiving any further spousal support. If indefinite maintenance is awarded, the court will not set a date of termination, and payments will continue until the court grants a request for modification or termination of support. The court may also choose to award reviewable maintenance for a specific amount of time, and at the end of this period, the court will review the parties’ circumstances to determine whether payments should continue or be modified or terminated.

Following the completion of a divorce, a person who has been ordered to pay spousal maintenance may file a petition requesting that their obligations be modified or terminated based on changes in their circumstances. For example, a person may ask that the amount of payments be reduced because they have lost their job or suffered financial hardships that have affected their ability to pay the amount ordered. Maintenance will also be terminated if either party dies or if the person who receives maintenance gets remarried or begins living together with a new romantic partner.

Contact Our DuPage County Spousal Maintenance Lawyers

If you believe that spousal support will be a factor in your divorce, the lawyers of Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC can help you make sure this issue will be addressed correctly. We will advocate for your interests and help you reach an outcome to your case that will allow you to provide for your ongoing needs. Contact our Elmhurst spousal support attorneys today at 312-605-4041 to arrange a consultation and learn how we can help you complete the divorce process successfully.






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