New Illinois Maintenance Law
DuPage County Divorce Attorneys
In every Illinois divorce, the family law court decides whether one spouse must pay maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support, to the other side. The purpose of maintenance is to provide that spouse with enough income to meet his or her basic needs and/or to enjoy a similar lifestyle after the divorce. In other words, maintenance payments are awarded to keep a spouse that is unemployed or earning significantly less from experiencing undue economic hardship as a result of the divorce.
The amount of the maintenance award and the number of years it must be paid can be determined by a private agreement between the two spouses or by the court if the spouses cannot reach such an agreement on their own. A recent amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act will change the way maintenance is determined in some important ways. This amendment takes effect January 1, 2015. At the law firm of Mulyk Laho Law, LLC, our Glen Ellyn divorce lawyers have extensive experience handling cases involving spousal support/maintenance in DuPage County and throughout Illinois, and we have thoroughly examined the impact these changes will have on Illinois divorce cases in 2015 and beyond.
Current Law on Maintenance/Spousal Support
Under the present law, the process for determining maintenance/spousal support is significantly different from the process for determining child support. Child support is awarded in conformance with strict statutory guidelines. By contrast, maintenance orders can be very subjective, with the court taking into account a variety of factors; such as the duration of the marriage, standard of living, spousal age and health, and financial circumstances. The result is difficulty in predicting the decision of any particular judge and wide variations in maintenance orders from one court to another.
New Law on Maintenance/Spousal Support
Under the new law that takes effect next year, there will be significant changes in the process for determining maintenance/spousal support for divorcing couples with a combined gross income of less than $250,000.
The initial process for determining whether maintenance/spousal support should be awarded in the first place remains pretty much the same; the court must take into account duration of the marriage, standard of living, spousal age and health, and financial circumstances, as well as a host of additional factors–all for the purpose of ensuring that both parties are able to go on with their economic lives in a fashion similar to what they enjoyed before the divorce.
However, once that threshold decision to award maintenance is made, the court must use a precise formula for calculating the actual award, explain how it reached its decision by reference to the statutory factors it considered, and provide a detailed, written explanation for why it varied from the formula (if it did so). In other words, the court may vary from the statutory formula, but it must justify its decision to do so, and its justification must be credible.
The new formula has a level of sophistication that behooves the parties involved to retain the counsel of experienced family law attorneys to ensure its proper application. In short, an award of maintenance or spousal support should be 30 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income, less 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s income (if any), not to exceed 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the paying spouse’s gross income. Because of the 40 percent combined income provision, things can become rather complicated. In addition, a separate formula taking into account the length of the marriage determines the duration of the award.
Some other notable changes under this amendment include:
- The judge is now required to take into account spousal support payments when determining the amount of child support payments the receiving spouse is entitled to.
- Judges are now authorized to deny maintenance/spousal support payments in cases wherein the duration of the marriage was 10 years or less.
- Judges can no longer order unallocated maintenance support unless both divorcing spouses are in agreement with it.
At Mulyk Laho Law, LLC, our DuPage County divorce lawyers will work closely with you to ensure that the new law on maintenance/spousal support is applied correctly and favorably in your case. We are experienced in dealing with all of the factors involved with traditional divorces as well as the new formulas for determining maintenance/spousal support payments. In addition, we help our clients with post-decree matters involving spousal support since changing circumstances often necessitate a change in the maintenance order. Contact our Glen Ellyn, Illinois offices today at (630) 852-1100 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.