Maintenance, also commonly called alimony, can be awarded by the Illinois Circuit Court as part of a divorce case. This article discusses alimony in Illinois, which was revised effective January 1, 2015 to use a new guideline system.
The decision as to whether to award maintenance is reached by the judge in an Illinois divorce case, who is required by 750 ILCS 5/504 to consider a variety of factors:
(1) the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance as well as all financial obligations imposed on the parties as a result of the dissolution of marriage;
(2) the needs of each party;
(3) the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
(4) any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;
(5) any impairment of the realistic present or future earning capacity of the party against whom maintenance is sought;
(6) the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or any parental responsibility arrangements and its effect on the party seeking employment;
(7) the standard of living established during the marriage;
(8) the duration of the marriage;
(9) the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and the needs of each of the parties;
(10) all sources of public and private income including, without limitation, disability and retirement income;
(11) the tax consequences of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;
(12) contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;
(13) any valid agreement of the parties; and
(14) any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.
As can be seen from that list, there are many factors that Illinois courts take into account when deciding whether to award maintenance to a person as part of their divorce. In general, longer-term marriages with more of an income disparity are more likely to see an alimony award, while alimony is less likely to be awarded when the marriage was of shorter duration and/or the parties incomes are similar. The courts in Illinois cannot consider marital fault (e.g. adultery) as a basis to award or not award maintenance.
In setting the amount of alimony to award, Illinois law provides a guideline system that courts are generally expected to follow in most cases where combined income does not exceed $250,000. That formula involves a calculation that takes 30% of the gross income of the paying spouse, subtracts 20% of the receiving spouse’s income, as long as doing so does not cause an amount greater than 40% of the combined income to be reached.
The same guidelines provide a calculation as to the duration of the maintenance award in Illinois, which is based upon the length of the marriage being multiplied by a decimal number provided by Illinois law:
- 0-5 year marriage = 0.2 x years married.
- 5-10 year marriage = 0.4 x years married.
- 10-15 year marriage = 0.6 x years married.
- 15-20 year marriage = 0.8 x years married.
- Over 20 years = the court can set alimony for the rest of the receiving spouses life, or the length of the marriage, in the court’s discretion.
In cases where alimony (maintenance) is contested in an Illinois divorce, there is a significant amount of money at stake for both spouses. Properly handling such divorce cases can be the difference between a favorable resolution and lasting financial harm. For that reason, a person with a divorce case in Illinois where alimony is at issue is well advised to seek an attorney at once.