Maintenance is also commonly known as alimony or spousal support. Maintenance is support paid by one spouse to another financially dependent spouse. The purpose of maintenance is to support a spouse that is financially dependent on the other spouse. Maintenance can also be used to maintain the lifestyle the couple enjoyed during their marriage when the recipient spouse could not otherwise enjoy the same lifestyle. Either spouse may request maintenance.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, most recently updated in 2019, now offers guidelines for determining the amount of maintenance that should be awarded and the duration of any award.
Maintenance can be awarded while a divorce is pending. This is often called a temporary support order. A request for temporary maintenance may be made as soon as a Petition for Dissolution (or Legal Separation) is served. An award of temporary maintenance is valid until the divorce is finalized (or it is superseded by another court order). The temporary support order may or may not be similar in amount to the maintenance order entered when the divorce is finalized.
Generally, judges prefer to permit both parties to move forward with their lives and allow them to cut all ties. For this reason, many judges strongly prefer to award a disproportionately larger share of the marital property to the financially dependent spouse in place of maintenance or in addition to a smaller amount of maintenance.
Maintenance can be paid in one lump sum or in periodic monthly payments. The domestic relations judge may order the payor spouse to make payments directly to the payee spouse or to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) who will in turn forward the payment on to the recipient spouse.
Assuming the maintenance award is modifiable, either party can request a reduction or increase in the amount or duration of maintenance if they can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. The key is that the change must be substantial. The unique circumstances of each case need to be analyzed.
If a payor spouse fails to make a court-ordered payment of maintenance, the payee spouse can file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause with the family law court that entered the original maintenance award. If the payor spouse can show that the failure to pay was not willful, the court will generally not punish the spouse for contempt of court. However, where the failure to pay is deemed willful, the court can hold the paying spouse in contempt of court. The court may impose fines or order jail time in an effort to seek compliance with its order.
At Goodman Law Firm our skilled divorce professionals work hard to favorably resolve your family law matter while educating you about the divorce process and preparing you for your future. If you are wondering whether you could receive a maintenance award, or be obligated to pay maintenance, contact our skilled divorce lawyer today and request a consultation. During our initial consultation, we will gather some key background information about you and your family. After listening and considering your unique situation, we will provide valuable guidance on how you can move forward. Contact us today to request an alimony consultation.
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