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Am I Entitled to Maintenance in Illinois?

Glen Ellyn Family Law Attorneys

Illinois lawmakers have set out to simplify this question by passing a new law that provides guidelines to make this determination. Unlike child support, spousal maintenance (previously known as “alimony”) is not a right that you are guaranteed. Whether you will receive such support after your marriage dissolution depends primarily on your own earning capacity and a maintenance award may only be temporary. While the new law is merely a guideline, it is anticipated that judges may utilize them because otherwise, the judge must make a finding explaining why they chose not to, and will make it easier for potential recipients of maintenance awards in Illinois to understand what they may be able to receive.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act

The “old” way of determining whether a spouse should receive maintenance or not relied on a series of considerations, much like those in place for child support. These may have included:

  • How much child support was awarded, if any;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The present and future earning capacity of each party;
  • Tax consequences;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The time necessary for the party seeking maintenance to learn trade, educate, or otherwise gain employment; and
  • The physical and emotional condition of both parties.

These factors are still highly relevant under the new legal requirements of spousal maintenance and have not been replaced by the new law. The court will still utilize these factors in order to determine whether a maintenance award is appropriate. If so, that’s when the new law will come into play. If not, then spousal maintenance will not be awarded and the below formula will not be utilized. The calculated amounts both before and after the new law will still be largely determined by your financial needs and your spouse’s ability to pay to support those needs.

The New Maintenance Law in Illinois

After the court makes the initial determination using the above (“old”) factors, that a maintenance award is appropriate, then the court will consider the amount of such an award. The new Illinois maintenance law provides a formula that will help judges determine the amount that should be paid in maintenance. It requires the following:

  • Take 30 percent of payor’s (the person paying for the maintenance) gross income;
  • Take 20 percent of the payee’s (the person receiving the maintenance) gross income;
  • Subtract the 20 percent amount from the 30 percent amount to determine how much is owed; and
  • This amount cannot be greater than 40 percent of both parties’ combined gross income; if it is, the award will be reduced accordingly.

The Illinois State Bar Association provides a clear example as to how this all works in practice:

  • Payor makes $50,000 a year, 30 percent of which is $15,000.
  • Payee makes $30,000 a year, 20 percent of which is $6,000.
  • The difference is $9,000.
  • Here, however, 40 percent of the combined gross income is $32,000. If the payee receives $9,000 on top of the $30,000 she already earns, she will be getting $39,000 annually-- $7,000 more than is permitted under the 40 percent rule. Her award would, accordingly, be reduced to $32,000.

This formula is designed to ensure the payor is not paying more than his or her means allow, and that the payee is not receiving more than he or she needs to remain financially secure after the divorce.

It is important to note that this formula is only applicable to divorcing couples who have a combined gross income of less than $250,000 and that these maintenance awards can come either by payment or in lump sum. Additionally, the law explains how these guidelines may affect child support payments in that the maintenance payments must be subtracted from payor’s income in order to calculate required child support. Finally, remember that maintenance orders are reviewable by the court and if the parties’ circumstances change, the award may be changed as well.

Contact An Experienced DuPage County Family Law Attorney

The economic impact of a divorce is often more significant for one of the spouses than the other. Maintenance payments are designed to lessen the disparity in earning and ensure that both parties can live comfortably, as they had when they were married. While maintenance payments are not a right, they are often awarded when one party has significantly less income than the other.

An experienced Glen Ellyn family law attorney can help you better understand your rights during the divorce process. At Mulyk Laho Law, LLC, our attorneys know how to navigate all of the complicated aspects of divorce proceedings. Taking the time to determine your possible maintenance award can be extremely helpful and comforting, and getting the matter through the court system as quickly as possible is something we strive for. If you or anyone you know is in need of a family law attorney in DuPage County, or is specifically looking to understand the complexities of the Illinois spousal maintenance laws, contact our Glen Ellyn law office today at (630) 852-1100 or fill out the online contact form.

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The law offices of Mulyk Laho Law, LLC
45 S. Park Blvd., Suite 230, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Phone: (630) 852-1100
Fax: (630) 852-1128