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spousal support, Illinois family law attorneyIf you are receiving spousal maintenance, you probably know—or, at least, assume—that your former spouse’s financial obligations to you will end in that event you ever get remarried. It only makes sense. When you get remarried, you become financially interdependent with your new spouse, all but making your ex all but irrelevant—children’s needs notwithstanding. Depending on your situation and your desires, however, you may be inclined to shy away from marriage for a time after your divorce, as your last formal commitment may have soured you a bit on the institution. As an alternative to getting married, you may decide to move in with your new partner, but you should know that, in most cases, cohabitation is grounds for ending spousal maintenance as well.

Growing Trend

Evolving social mores and more liberal views on interpersonal relationships have led to an increasing number of unmarried couples living together. Many choose the arrangement as a precursor to marriage, while others are content to remain cohabiting indefinitely. While sociologists and religious authorities continue to debate the morality of cohabitation, legal systems around the country have been forced to contend with the changing concepts of household and family.

spousal maintenance, orders, Illinois Family LawyersAfter a divorce, there is often a significant disparity between each spouse’s ability to be financially self-sufficient. This could be the result of differing familial roles during the marriage, child custody arrangement subsequent to the divorce, and many other factors. To help alleviate the financial impact on the more-dependent spouse, the court may order—or the spouses may agree to—spousal maintenance for a period of time following the divorce. How long such an order will last, however, is dependent upon the circumstances of each case.

Statutory Provisions

Your order for spousal maintenance will be based upon provisions set forth in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The law provides calculation formulas for both the amount of maintenance to be paid and the length of time for which it will be paid, to be used in most divorce situations. The duration of your order is determined by multiplying the length of your marriage by a percentage factor designated in the law. The percentages are weighted so that longer marriages will result in longer orders for maintenance. The factors range from 20 percent for marriages lasting 0-5 years up to 80 percent for marriages lasting 15-20 years, and possible permanent maintenance for those over 20 years.

maintenance, modification, Illinois family law attorneyAre you struggling to make your monthly spousal maintenance payments? If you are like many people in today’s economic landscape, the answer may be yes. However, you understand the importance of complying with a judicial order and, despite the difficulty, you continue to find ways to uphold your end of the agreement. While such dedication is certainly admirable, you may have other options available to you, including a modification of your maintenance order. In certain situations, a modification can ease the unnecessary strain on your life and help you get back on your feet.

Change in Circumstances

Whether it was ten years ago or ten months ago, when your spousal support order was developed, it took into account your current financial state and the circumstances of your marriage. Of course, things certainly change over time and, unfortunately, not always for the better. For example, your maintenance payments were probably calculated based on your income at the time of the order. Due to the nature of the job market, your health, or a number of other factors, your current income may be drastically lower. Alternatively, your income may have remained virtually the same but increases in the cost of living or other necessary expenses may be complicating your situation.

spousal support, spousal maintenance, Geneva divorce attorneySpousal maintenance, or alimony, is frequently utilized in divorce cases to limit the financial impact to a spouse who, based on the circumstances of the marriage, is not prepared to become immediately self-sufficient. While post-divorce life is rarely easy for either spouse, a partner who had assumed more domestic responsibilities or had lower or no income may find it virtually impossible to survive without the financial support that a maintenance award provides.

New provisions were enacted under Illinois law this year which, for the first time, provided a formulaic standard regarding the calculation of spousal maintenance orders. Previous versions of the law left every detail to the discretion of the court, which eventually led to disparity in awards depending on the judge assigned to the case. The new law sought to remove much of the inconsistency, while still leaving some significant responsibility with the individual court.

Spousal Maintenance Basics

Alimony, Spousal Support, Illinois DivorceFor most couples, marriage requires sharing responsibilities and being able to rely on each other. Whether by unspoken agreement or regular discussions, each partner tends to become responsible for certain aspects of maintaining the life they share. In previous generations, for example, the husband worked full-time to provide financial support and while the wife may have worked part-time, she took primary responsibility for raising children and upkeep of the family home. If such a marriage were to end in divorce, the wife may have a great deal of difficulty in supporting herself as she works toward becoming self-sufficient. Spousal maintenance, or alimony, may provide the wife in this situation with the resources she needs to regain her independence. In Illinois, a spousal support may negotiated between the divorcing parties prior to the case reaching a judge but such an agreement is only one factor the court is required to consider in making a decision regarding maintenance awards. Other considerations include:

  • Assets and property of both spouses;
  • Each partner’s individual needs;
  • Current and future earning potential, including the impact of putting off education or training due to marital or family responsibilities;
  • The likelihood, ability, and timeline for the supported spouse to become self-sufficient;
  • Standard of living for the couple during marriage; and
  • Each spouse’s age, as well as physical and emotional health.

Once the court has determined that spousal maintenance is appropriate in a particular case, state law provides guidelines for calculating the amount and duration of the award. The recommended amount to be paid should be based on the parties’ gross income, and is equal to 30 percent of the payor’s annual income minus 20 percent of the payee’s annual income. When added to the payee’s income, the resulting amount may not exceed 40 percent of the couple’s combined income. The law also provides a formula to calculate the duration, or length, of a maintenance award. The duration should be equal to the length of the marriage multiplied by a specified percentage factor. Values for the percentage factors are set forth in by statute, and are relative to marriage length, thus allowing longer marriages to typically result in longer or permanent awards as compared to shorter marriages.

Consider a situation in which a couple is divorcing after 14 years of marriage and the court has decided that spousal maintenance is appropriate. The husband’s gross annual income is $100,000 and the wife’s is $25,000. The calculation for the amount of the award would be: 30 percent of $100,000, or $30,000, minus 20 percent of $25,000, or $5,000, equaling $25,000. Adding the award to the wife’s $25,000 income totals $50,000 which is 40 percent of the couple’s combined income of $125,000, and is therefore compliant with the law. The calculation for the length of the award would be: 14 years multiplied by .6, the percentage factor indicated in the law, equaling 8.4 years, or about 8 years 5 months.

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