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Your Guide to Spousal Maintenance in Illinois Divorce Cases

 Posted on August 24, 2023 in Spousal Maintenance/Alimony

Untitled---2023-08-24T100717.694.jpgThere are a variety of issues that can complicate the divorce process, and many of these will be related to financial matters. There are multiple types of expenses that spouses will need to pay during a divorce, including legal fees and various costs related to changes in living situations. As spouses separate from each other, they may need to address moving expenses and other costs related to finding new housing. Each spouse will also need to determine how to pay ongoing expenses such as mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, groceries, transportation costs, and more.

While these issues can often be addressed by making adjustments to budgets, there are some situations where one spouse may be unable to fully support themselves on their own. In cases where a spouse will be at a financial disadvantage following their divorce, they may ask for support from their former partner. 

Spousal maintenance, which is also known as alimony or spousal support, may play a role in divorce cases where a spouse may struggle to meet their financial needs. Payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce may be appropriate in certain situations. However, this issue can further complicate a divorce that may already involve disputed issues or complex financial factors. While one spouse may believe they should receive support, the other spouse may be unwilling to make ongoing payments. To ensure that these issues will be addressed correctly, it is important to work with an attorney who can represent your interests and protect your rights.

At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we understand how financial issues can affect the divorce process, and we are dedicated to helping our clients resolve these concerns and put arrangements in place that will protect their interests in the future. Whether you plan to request spousal support during your divorce or are concerned about whether you may be required to make ongoing payments, we can advise you on how the law applies in your situation, and we will advocate for solutions that will allow you to meet your needs in the months and years to come.


Situations Where Spousal Support May Be Appropriate

Spousal maintenance is not automatically granted in Illinois divorce cases, and it will typically only be awarded if a spouse can demonstrate a financial need. The purpose of spousal support is to maintain the status quo as much as possible. That is, if a couple became used to a certain standard of living while they were married, a family court judge may take steps to make sure both parties can continue living at a similar standard after a separation or divorce. 

Spousal support may be deemed to be appropriate in various situations where one spouse requires financial assistance in order to maintain their accustomed standard of living. Some common scenarios where spousal maintenance may be awarded include:

  • Income disparity: If there is a significant difference in income between spouses, with one earning considerably more than the other, the higher-earning spouse may be required to pay spousal support. This will help maintain the status quo enjoyed during the marriage in which the spouse with a higher income paid for the majority of the family’s expenses.

  • Stay-at-home parent: If one spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period due to raising children or supporting the household, while the other spouse focused on their career, the stay-at-home spouse may receive spousal maintenance. Courts will seek to avoid disruption in the lives of children and other family members, and ongoing support may help ensure that a parent will be able to continue staying at home and handling childcare responsibilities. At the same time, the support a stay-at-home parent receives may allow them to pursue an education so that they will eventually be able to return to work and begin supporting themselves.

  • Economic hardship: If a spouse faces financial difficulties that have affected their ability to support themselves, they may receive ongoing support payments that will allow them to meet their needs. For example, a spouse who has a disability that prevents them from working full-time may need to receive support to ensure that they will be able to cover their living expenses. 

  • High net worth divorce: In cases where one or both spouses earn large incomes or own significant assets, a variety of complex financial factors may affect the outcome of their case. Spousal support may be necessary to ensure that a spouse can maintain their standard of living, or a couple may agree that one spouse will receive ongoing support payments, while the other spouse will receive a larger share of the couple’s marital property


Determining Factors for Awarding Spousal Support

Since spousal maintenance is not awarded automatically, this issue will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and a judge will consider a variety of issues to determine whether support is appropriate. Illinois law outlines the factors that may be considered in these cases, which include but are not limited to:

  • Income and property: The court will assess the financial resources of each spouse, including the income they are currently earning, the marital property awarded to each party during the divorce process, and the separate property that each spouse owned before getting married or received through gifts or inheritances.

  • Needs and obligations: The court will consider each spouse’s ongoing needs, including daily expenses and other costs involved in maintaining their accustomed standard of living. Each party’s financial obligations may also be considered, including the requirement to pay child support for the couple’s children or children from previous relationships. 

  • Each party’s age, health, and other related factors: When determining the needs that each spouse will have and their ability to provide for themselves, the court may look at the role that their age and their physical and emotional health may play in their situation. For older couples, courts may look at whether either spouse is approaching retirement age and how the payment or receipt of spousal support may affect their ability to meet their needs as they get older. Health-related issues may also affect a spouse’s employability, and these factors may be considered when determining whether ongoing support is needed.

  • Earning capacity: The court will evaluate each spouse's ability to earn an income and support themselves based on their skills, education level, employability, and any impairments that may affect their ability to work. Factors that affect each party’s earning capacity will also be considered, including domestic duties that may affect a spouse’s ability to work or limitations on a person’s employment opportunities because they chose to focus on family responsibilities during their marriage rather than pursuing an education or a career.

  • Duration of the marriage: The amount of time a couple was married will be an important factor that may affect decisions about spousal maintenance. Longer marriages are more likely to result in spousal support awards when compared to shorter marriages.

  • Contributions to the marriage: The court may look at what each spouse did to maintain a family’s standard of living during their marriage, including the income they earned and the services they provided in the home. One key issue will involve any support provided by one spouse that allows the other spouse to increase their income. For example, if one spouse helped the other pay college expenses, provided assistance with studying, aided in pursuing job opportunities, and took on a larger share of household responsibilities so that the other spouse could focus on their career, the spouse who benefited from these contributions may be required to pay spousal maintenance to their former partner.

  • Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements: In many cases, spouses will enter into marital agreements that are meant to make divorce-related decisions ahead of time and avoid conflict during the dissolution of their marriage. These agreements may specify whether spousal support will be paid, and they can also provide instructions for how the amount of payments will be calculated and how long these payments will last. Most of the time, if a couple has a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses spousal maintenance, the court will follow the terms of this agreement.


Calculating Spousal Maintenance Payments

If a family court judge determines that spousal maintenance will be appropriate, Illinois law provides statutory guidelines for calculating the amount that will be paid and the duration of the payments. The formula for calculating spousal maintenance payments takes the net annual income earned by both parties into account. 25 percent of the recipient’s net income is subtracted from 33.3 percent of the other spouse’s net income to determine the annual amount of spousal support that will be paid. This amount is then divided by 12 to determine the amount of monthly maintenance payments.

There are a few factors that may affect these calculations. The recipient cannot receive more than 40 percent of the couple’s total combined net income. That is, if the amount of spousal maintenance calculated using the formula plus the net income that the recipient earns is more than 40 percent of the couple’s combined income, the amount of support will be reduced accordingly.

It is also important to note that the statutory guidelines will only apply in situations where a couple’s combined gross annual income is less than $500,000. In cases where a couple’s combined income exceeds this amount, a judge will determine an appropriate amount of support based on the couple’s circumstances.

The duration in which payments must be made will typically be based on the length of a couple’s marriage. When fixed-term maintenance is awarded, the duration is calculated based on a percentage of the total amount of time the couple was married. In some cases, other arrangements may be made, such as making spousal support obligations reviewable after a certain amount of time. With reviewable maintenance, the court will re-evaluate the case after the specified period to determine whether the recipient has a continuing need for support, whether the amount of payments may be modified, or whether maintenance should be terminated because the recipient can support themselves on their own. 


Maintenance Modification and Termination

In certain situations after a divorce, spousal maintenance orders can be modified or terminated. Some common reasons for modification or termination include:

  • Changes in circumstances: If either party has experienced changes in their financial situation, such as a job loss or health issues that affect their income, they may request a modification to the amount of spousal support that is paid, or they may ask for maintenance obligations to be terminated.

  • Remarriage or cohabitation: If the recipient of spousal support marries a new partner, the other party’s obligation to make payments will automatically terminate. Spousal support may also be terminated if the recipient starts living with a new partner.

  • Death of either party: Spousal maintenance automatically terminates upon the death of either the payor or recipient unless the divorce decree states otherwise.


Contact Our Experienced Elmhurst Spousal Maintenance Lawyers

If you are going through a divorce and have concerns about spousal maintenance or other financial issues, our team at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC is here to help. We understand that every case is unique and requires personalized attention. We will advise you on the best ways to address your concerns and resolve any disputes you may encounter. With our help, you can ensure that your financial interests will be protected as you work to end your marriage. Contact our DuPage County spousal support attorneys today at 312-605-4041 to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. 




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