Maintenance & Alimony
If you are contemplating a divorce or are currently in the process of divorcing, the question of how much money you will have available to meet monthly living expenses at the completion of the divorce is likely one of your primary concerns. The answer is fact-specific and depends on many factors, including how your property is divided and whether maintenance and child support is ordered. Maintenance (also commonly referred to as alimony or spousal support) is money paid by one spouse (the payor) to another (the payee) to assist the payee in supporting him or herself. Illinois maintenance laws are summarized below. If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact our offices to speak to an experienced Illinois maintenance lawyer.
Either spouse may request maintenance. Gender is not a relevant factor when considering whether to award maintenance. Similarly, fault and misconduct are not relevant factors. Therefore, a spouse that cheated can neither be required to pay more maintenance nor precluded from receiving maintenance.
If an award of maintenance is sought by any party to a divorce, the court must first determine that an award of maintenance is appropriate. Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”) outlines the factors a court must consider when determining whether an award of maintenance is appropriate. The factors are comprehensive and, in general terms, try to determine if there is a meaningful discrepancy in the parties’ ability to meet their living expenses and/or maintain their standard of living now and in the future. The family law court is required to consider the income, property, earning potential, employability, education, training, and health of both parties, among other things. After weighing these factors, the court will determine if maintenance is appropriate.
Once a court determines that an award of maintenance is appropriate, then it can set the amount and duration of its award. For divorcing couples with a combined gross income of less than $500,000.00 and no maintenance or child support obligation from a prior relationship, Illinois law provides a formula for setting the amount of maintenance.
The Illinois maintenance formula is relatively straightforward. Section 504 of the IMDMA provides in relevant part that maintenance:
“shall be calculated by taking 33 1/3 % of the payor’s net income minus 25% of the payee’s net income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the net income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined net income of the parties.”
For purposes of calculating maintenance, gross income is defined as all income from all sources; some forms of income may be excluded.
Section 504 of the IMDMA also sets the duration of a maintenance award based on the length of the marriage at the time a petition for divorce is filed. To calculate the duration of a maintenance award, multiply the length of the marriage by the appropriate factor:
A family law court may deviate from the guideline formula if a couple’s combined income is in excess of $500,000 or the court states a reason for deviating from the guidelines. For example, a court might award a disproportionately greater share of the marital property to the dependent spouse in an effort to cut all future ties between the couple and consequently award less maintenance than provided for in the maintenance guidelines.
If you need help determining whether a maintenance award is likely in your situation we can help. Our firm routinely handles maintenance cases. If you are looking for an experienced Ilinois alimony attorney, contact us today to request a maintenance/alimony consultation.
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