Maintenance isn’t always ordered, but when it is, it’s calculated by statute. In the state of Illinois, there are specific guidelines that must be followed when determining if one spouse should pay maintenance to another. It seeks to provide financial support to the lesser-earning spouse while they get back on their feet after the dissolution of marriage. How long it lasts is determined by statute, which calculated how long the parties were married.
But Exactly How Is Maintenance/Alimony Calculated?
In order to calculate maintenance/alimony payments in Illinois, courts consider several factors such as length of marriage, income levels (including potential future income), standard of living during marriage, age and health status of each spouse, financial resources available to each spouse after divorce, contributions made by each spouse during marriage (including homemaking duties), etc. Additionally, under 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1), courts must consider both spouses' income along with their ability to pay when calculating spousal support amounts. Courts must also consider any other factors deemed relevant by the court in its decision-making process.
Regardless, it is calculated according to a formula. The statute, above, expresses it as a word problem. When I calculate it, I use the same worksheet as does the Court.
When is Someone Required to Pay Maintenance?
Maintenance can be ordered when the higher earning party has the ability to pay and the lower earning party has a need to support themselves. The court will not require the higher earning party to support the lower earning party in a life-style that is better than the one they had when the couple was married. But if the issue is taken before the judge in a trial, the Court will consider factors such as ability to earn income, ability to pay, the lifestyle of the family and needs. Courts also have discretion when it comes to determining whether or not these payments should be made at all — even if both parties meet all other criteria — which means there is no guarantee that they will ultimately be awarded any amount whatsoever. However, if an award is granted it could last anywhere from just a few years up or for the rest of the payor’s lifetime depending on your individual circumstances.
Are There Other types of Maintenance or Alimony?
Some people prefer a property settlement instead of maintenance. It can be ordered to be paid as a lump sum too. When it comes to how a couple decides on maintenance, if the matter is uncontested, they can define for themselves the amount and length. But there is no requirement that one spouse actually pays the other.
When Does it End and Can Maintenance be Changed?
Maintenance ends after the time period specified in the order. It can be terminated early if the lower-earning recipient spouse remarries or begins living with another person in a marriage-like relationship. They can live with a roommate, but this is often seen as suspicious. The lower-earning person can also date, but if they begin living with another person as part of a couple, maintenance can end. It can be reduced or lowered if there is a change in either person’s financial circumstances, but not all changes in income are a reason to change maintenance. For example, if the payer quits a good paying job to take a low-paying job with the intention to reduce maintenance, the Courts usually do not reward the behavior. But if the maintenance payor’s company closes, then the court will probably consider the change in income. But when it ends is quite nuanced.
Can Women be Ordered to Pay Maintenance/Alimony (or Palimony?)
Yes. The law in Illinois does not differentiate between men and women when it comes to maintenance.
What if We Just Lived Together and Never got Married (Or had a Civil Union). Can I get Maintenance Then?
No. The Court has no basis to make anyone pay the other maintenance if you just lived together. The law states that only if there is a contractual relationship recognized by the State can result in maintenance.
It is Always Ordered to be Paid?
No. Courts also have discretion when it comes to determining whether or not these payments should be made at all — even if both parties meet all other criteria — which means there is no guarantee that they will ultimately be awarded any amount whatsoever. However, if an award is granted it could last anywhere from just a few years up until permanent alimony depending on your individual circumstances.
No two divorces are ever exactly alike and each situation is unique. As a result, its impossible for me to predict if you will ultimately be awarded maintenance or will have to pay it. Besides, I cannot give you advice unless I am retained as your lawyer. But if you and your soon-to-be-ex have agreed on the issue of maintenance (or alimony/spousal support) along with the others, I would be happy to help. You can call my office at 618-656-9620 or reach out through my website.