Determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance in Illinois is based on the income of each spouse and the length of the marriage. Spousal maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony, refers to ongoing payments to an ex-spouse to help maintain the quality of life once enjoyed during the marriage.
Determining Whether Maintenance Is Appropriate
Spousal maintenance is not mandatory in Illinois. While maintenance is often awarded when one spouse earns significantly less than the other, it can be waived as long as the court determines that such an arrangement would not hinder the ability of the would-be recipient to be self-supporting.
Additionally, the courts may determine that spousal maintenance is not required even if one spouse earns less than the other and he or she receives adequate support from another source. If the spouse is cohabitating with someone else, for instance, the courts may determine that maintenance payments are not appropriate.
How Much Maintenance Is Awarded
If the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, The amount is typically figured based on 33.33% of the net income of the spouse that is paying the maintenance. If the recipient spouse has income, 25% of that income will be subtracted. Maintenance awards cannot be over 40% of the couple’s combined net income. This is the statutory guideline for spouses who have a combined income of less than $500,000 and no children from another relationship. If the courts find a reason not to follow the statutory guideline, such as non-monetary assets in the divorce, they must justify deviating from the guidelines.
How Long Will Maintenance Payments Last?
In Illinois, the length of time the maintenance payments continue depends on how long the couple was married. The duration is found by multiplying the length of the marriage by the applicable percentage. For example, for marriages that last:
- Less than 5 years, the duration is equal to 20% of the length of the marriage
- 5-6 years, the duration is 24%
- 6-7 years, the duration is 28%
- 7-8 years, the duration is 32%
The amount continues to increase by 4% per additional year of marriage. If the marriage was 20 years or longer, maintenance payments are generally ordered for a term equaling the length of the marriage. In some cases, payments continue for life. Divorce lawyers often review the formula for calculating maintenance payments in Illinois with their clients to help them understand what to expect.