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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 family law attorneyDivorce is a different experience for everyone who goes through it. The particulars of how a marriage ends can be based on many factors including the financial situation of each spouse, the length of the marriage, if children are involved, and more. If you are planning to get divorced and you are the primary breadwinner of the couple, there are some special considerations that you should take note of.

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance, also called spousal support or alimony, refers to the payments that the higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse after a divorce. Spousal maintenance in Illinois is determined on a case-by-case scenario for couples who have a large discrepancy in either income or life circumstances. If you make significantly more money than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse or they have been out of the workforce for a while, you might have to pay spousal maintenance. The amount the payments will be determined by the length and standard of living of the marriage, the spouses’ income and property, the present and future earning capacity of each spouse, and more. Maintenance payments can be temporary or permanent, but are not required after the person receiving maintenance remarries. 

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…”

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.

Kane County divorce attorneyAs you approach the process of divorce, you, undoubtedly, will have many questions. You are likely to wonder how arrangements for your children will be made and who will get what property when everything is divided between you and your spouse. It is also common for spouses—especially those who make more than their partners—to have concerns about spousal maintenance and how much they may be required to pay following the divorce.

Maybe, Maybe Not

The first thing you should know about maintenance—or alimony, as it is sometimes called—is that it is not guaranteed in divorce. Each case is handled by the court on an individual basis. Of course, the court may look to previous rulings for established precedents, but in awarding maintenance, the court must determine that an actual need exists. To determine the need, the court will look at numerous factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s age, health, income, and employability, and the contributions of each spouse to the marriage and to each other’s earning capacity.

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