Fixed-Term Maintenance May Be an Option for Short Marriages
When a couple gets divorced, Illinois law provides that one spouse may be ordered to make payments of maintenance—also known as alimony—to the other. The purpose of maintenance is to help a financially disadvantaged spouse better manage his or her post-divorce life. In many cases, the need for spousal support is understandable, especially in long marriages where one spouse sacrificed career advancement for the sake of the marriage and family responsibilities. But, what about couples who were only married a short time before getting divorced? Illinois law does not automatically eliminate the possibility of maintenance following a short marriage, but it does offer the court a fairly unique option.
Standard Maintenance Awards
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides a table that determines how long maintenance payments should continue if the court finds such support to be appropriate. To determing the length of the order, the court must multiply the length of the marriage by a predetermined percentage factor:
- 0.20 for a marriage of five years or less;
- 0.40 for a marriage of more than five years but less than 10 years;
- 0.60 for a marriage of more than 10 years but less than 15 years; and
- 0.80 for a marriage of more than 15 years but less than 20 years.
For marriages of 20 years or more, the court may award permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
In most cases involving maintenance, both parties have the right to ask the court to deviate from the prescribed guidelines. This means that it is possible for the recipient spouse to show that length of the original award was not sufficient in meeting his or her needs and that an extension is necessary.
A Short-Term Option
It is somewhat reasonable that a person who took on a certain role within a marriage for a very long time would have trouble adjusting to a post-divorce life. It is less reasonable, however, if the marriage only lasted a few years. That is why the court now has the discretion to order fixed-term maintenance in proceedings following a marriage of 10 years or less.
The court is still expected to establish the initial duration of the award as a percentage of the marriage’s length, but with an additional provision. If the court enters the order as a fixed-term award, no extensions will be considered. The end date will be considered permanent. Fixed-term maintenance awards are intended to prevent a party from going back to court time and again when the marriage itself only lasted a short time.
Understanding Your Options
If you are going through a divorce and your spouse has requested spousal support, it is important to understand how the law may apply to your case. Contact an experienced Geneva divorce attorney to discuss your situation today. Call 630-232-9700 for a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates.