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Spousal Support in Illinois

One of the most common questions divorce attorneys hear from their clients is whether they will be able to collect, or how much they will have to pay, for spousal support (also called “maintenance,” and formerly called “alimony”). Suddenly, the family’s income must support two households instead of one. This can be particularly concerning for a spouse who has been out of the workforce while raising children, or for a person whose income is significantly lower than the spouse’s.  While spousal support is still an important aspect of any divorce case, Illinois is among the majority of states that has moved away from the traditional idea of permanent spousal support.  Illinois has adopted an approach designed to ease the transition from married life to a single life.   

Who is Eligible To Receive Maintenance?

In determining whether an award of maintenance is appropriate, the court will consider a variety of factors, including:The relative income, assets, and needs of each party.

-The standard of living of the parties during the marriage.

-The duration of the marriage.

-The age, education level and earning capacity of each party.

-The contribution of either spouse to the household, or to the education and/or

career of the other.

-Any factors which might impair the ability of either spouse to earn a living.

How is The Amount of Maintenance Determined?

If the court determines that payment of maintenance is appropriate, a statutory formula for the amount of support is applied when the combined annual gross income of the parties is under $500,000, and the circumstances warrant the formula to be appropriate. Under the statutory guidelines, the amount of maintenance would be 33.33% of the paying party’s net income, minus 25% of the receiving party’s net income. If the calculated amount of maintenance combined with the receiving party’s personal income turns out to exceed 40% of the parties’ combined income, the amount of support will be reduced.

How Long Will Maintenance Last?

The Illinois maintenance statute also has a formula to determine the duration of maintenance. The support will generally be determined by a set percentage, multiplied by the length of the marriage, to determine the number of years and months maintenance is to be paid.  Now, for marriages which are 20 years or more in duration, the court has discretion to order maintenance to be paid for a period equal to the length of the marriage, or for an indefinite term.

Many factors can affect the court’s actual award, however, including the length of time it may take for the receiving party to acquire the education of job skills necessary to enter or re-enter the workforce, the age of the parties’ children, and any impairments that might affect the receiving party’s ability to earn a living.

How Can An Attorney Help?

Although the statutory guidelines for maintenance seem fairly straightforward, there is still a lot of leeway for negotiations for settlement, or for judges in their final decisions. Determining a party’s net income can be complicated, especially when the party is self- employed or regularly receives bonuses, overtime, or commissions.  Unfortunately, parties in a divorce often try to hide or defer income from their spouses, and an experienced divorce lawyer will be needed to help uncover this income. An attorney can help collect and present evidence of a spouse’s contribution and services to the education, training, career potential or licensing of the other spouse in setting an appropriate support figure. 

Starting in 2019, major changes to federal tax laws now effect all parties in divorce proceedings in every state, including Illinois. For cases with a divorce finalizing this year, maintenance payments are no longer tax-deductible for the payor, and will no longer be taxed as income to the payee.  This will undoubtedly have a major impact on settlement negotiations and final support awards. The experienced divorce attorneys at Ciesla Beeler will be able to advise you on the effect the new tax laws may have on the amount of spousal support you may pay or receive, click here to find out more.


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