Maintenance (Formerly Alimony)

Spousal maintenance, formerly called alimony, is a payment made by one spouse to another during or after divorce proceedings. A judge may determine that maintenance is appropriate when there is a discrepancy in the spouses’ incomes. The goal is to put both spouses in financial situations as close to equal as possible after a divorce.

How do you qualify for maintenance in a Chicago divorce?

In a divorce proceeding, either spouse can petition the court for financial support from the other spouse. The court will only award spousal maintenance if the petitioning spouse demonstrates a need for assistance before and/or after the divorce. If there is a significant difference in earnings, in some cases, the court may distribute more of the marital property to the lower-earning spouse as an alternative to awarding maintenance.

What is temporary spousal maintenance?

Under state law, a spouse going through a divorce is permitted to request temporary maintenance. This is designed to help the supported spouse maintain the current financial status while the divorce process continues. In determining whether to award temporary maintenance, the court must evaluate the income of each spouse, whether the spouse requesting maintenance needs financial assistance, and whether the other spouse will also pay child support. An award for temporary maintenance typically ends when the divorce is final.

What factors does the court consider in deciding maintenance?

Family court judges consider several factors in determining whether maintenance is appropriate, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living in the household during the marriage
  • Age, physical health, and emotional health of each spouse
  • Property of each spouse (including marital property awarded in the divorce)
  • Income of each spouse, including disability and retirement
  • Need for support of each spouse
  • Realistic earning capacity of each spouse, present and future
  • Impairment of current and future earning capacity of the petitioner because of decisions made during the marriage, such as leaving the workforce to be a stay-at-home parent
  • Whether one spouse contributed to the education of the other spouse during the marriage
  • Time needed for the petitioner to get the education, training, and employment to become financially independent
  • Any agreement regarding support between the parties
  • Tax consequences to each party

How does the court decide how much maintenance to award?

If the court finds that a maintenance award is appropriate, it will order guideline maintenance if the combined gross annual income of the spouses is less than $500,000. The payor is not obligated to pay child support or maintenance from a previous relationship. In this case, the maintenance amount is calculated by subtracting 25% of the payee’s net annual income from 33 1/3% of the payor’s net annual income. However, if maintenance and child support combined exceed 50% of the payor’s net income, the court can award non-guideline maintenance at its discretion after considering all relevant factors.

How long do spousal maintenance payments continue?

The duration of a spousal maintenance award is determined by the length of the marriage – beginning on the date of the marriage and ending on the date a petition for divorce was filed. That time is multiplied by whichever of the factors applies, as stated in the Illinois statute:

  • Less than 5 years (.20)
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24)
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28)
  • 7 years or more but less than 8 years (.32)
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36)
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40)
  • 10 years or more but less than 11 years (.44)
  • 11 years or more but less than 12 years (.48)
  • 12 years or more but less than 13 years (.52)
  • 13 years or more but less than 14 years (.56)
  • 14 years or more but less than 15 years (.60)
  • 15 years or more but less than 16 years (.64)
  • 16 years or more but less than 17 years (.68)
  • 17 years or more but less than 18 years (.72)
  • 18 years or more but less than 19 years (.76)
  • 19 years or more but less than 20 years (.80)

If the marriage lasted 20 years or more, the court, in its discretion, will award maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or an indefinite term.

Are there limits on the amount of maintenance a spouse can receive?

The above guidelines are used to calculate spousal maintenance; however, there are limits on how much can be awarded. The maintenance amount plus the payee’s net annual income cannot exceed 40% of the combined net annual income of both spouses. If it does exceed that amount, the maintenance award will be reduced accordingly.

At Beermann LLP, we have been serving the Chicago area since 1958. From complex litigation to negotiated settlements to appeals, our talented lawyers have years of experience and a reputation in the courts. When everything is at stake, we are the law firm people reach out to for their family law matters.