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Geneva family law attorneyIf you are divorced and receiving maintenance payments from your ex-spouse, you may have come to rely on that money. Maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is intended to help a financially disadvantaged spouse in the years that follow a divorce, so such reliance is rather understandable. There are, however, a few situations in which your actions could cause maintenance payments to end. It is important to understand the law in Illinois so that you can make the best decisions for your future.

Ending Support Obligations

Permanent maintenance—in other words, support for the rest of a spouse’s life—is generally reserved for divorces between spouses who have been married for 20 years or more. For shorter marriages, the court will usually set a specific amount of time for maintenance payments to last. Both situations presume that the court has identified the need for maintenance. When a support order includes an intended end date, payments must continue until that date unless the recipient remarries or either spouse passes away. (It is possible for a divorce settlement to include security provisions in the event of the paying spouse’s death, but that is a topic for another day.) The third situation that could terminate a spouse’s obligation to pay maintenance is if the recipient spouse moves in with a new romantic partner.  

Geneva divorce attorneyWhen a couple gets divorced in Illinois, maintenance is not guaranteed for either spouse. Also known as alimony or spousal support, maintenance is only ordered by the court if such payments are found to be necessary and appropriate. In some cases, a divorcing couple will agree to maintenance terms on their own, and the court will typically approve these agreements as long as they are reasonable. When left up to the court, however, there must be a demonstrable need on the part of one spouse.

When determining whether award maintenance, the court must take into account more than a dozen factors, including each spouse’s age, health, income, earning potential, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living created during the union. Many of these factors address each spouse’s current situation, but according to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), there two specific considerations that deal with contributions and sacrifices made by a spouse in a supporting role as the primary homemaker or child-raiser.

“Any Impairment…”

Posted on in Spousal Maintenance

Geneva family law attorneyWhen a married couple chooses to end their marriage through divorce, the court may award spousal support to one spouse. Spousal support is sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance. It refers to payments that one spouse makes to the other in order to help him or her maintain their quality of life after the marriage has ended. Spousal support can be based on an arrangement between the couple, a prenuptial agreement, or a decision by the court itself.

How Is Spousal Support Awarded?

Spousal support is similar to child support in that it is awarded to a person who needs income support from a former spouse. Unlike child support, which in most states is awarded according to very specific guidelines, courts have much more discretion in determining if spousal support is appropriate or not. The court also decides how much spousal support will be awarded and for how long payments will occur. Courts consider the following factors in making decisions about spousal support:

Geneva family law attorneyA parent has a legal obligation to support his or her children. This is true even in the midst of a divorce. Depending on any the situation, a person may have an obligation to help support his or her (soon-to-be) ex-spouse as well. However, many people confuse the two obligations, when in reality child support and maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support) are very different, not least of all because the right to collect belongs to different parties.

Child Support

Child support is a right that belongs to a child, not their parents, though the actual payments may be received and administered by the child’s parent. It is defined as court-ordered payments usually made by the parent with fewer parental responsibilities or less parenting time to help support his or her children. In Illinois, the obligation to pay support exists, if ordered, until that child turns 18 years old. If the child is still attending high school at that age, however, the support obligation is extended until they either graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first.

Geneva divorce attorneyWhen 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:

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