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Changes Coming to Spousal Maintenance Laws in Illinois

 Posted on December 00,0000 in DuPage County divorce lawyer

spousal support, Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois alimony lawyer, marital assets, For the last 30 years, Illinois law has included specific provisions for calculating child support which provide the courts a standardized formula to increase consistency throughout the state. Spousal maintenance guidelines, however, were not specifically quantified; instead the appropriateness, amount, and duration of a maintenance order have been left to the consideration of the court. As viewpoints and opinions differ between judges, there has been growing concern that maintenance orders may depend more on which court hears the case than on the law itself.

Illinois Public Act 098-0961 was enacted on August 15, 2014, to address the inconsistency of spousal maintenance. Going into effect on January 1, the act amends the existing law to include a mathematical formula for determining the recommended amount of maintenance to be paid in most cases. Additionally, the amendment provides guidelines regarding the duration of the support order and permits the court to enforce fixed-term maintenance based on the length of the marriage.

Under the amended law, the court maintains its discretion in establishing “whether a maintenance award is appropriate” and which spouse should be provided support. Consideration must be given to “all relevant factors” which may include each party's:

  • Income, assets, and needs, including tax liabilities as a result of property division;
  • Present and future earning capacity, including any situations which may have affected earning capacity, such as child-rearing; and
  • Age, physical and emotional health, education, and educational needs.

 The duration of the marriage, the lifestyle it established, and any agreements between the parties are also to be taken into account. Any other factors deemed to be relevant by the court may be included, even if not expressly addressed by the law.

Once maintenance is judged to be appropriate, the court is required to calculate the award using the guidelines set forth in the amendment. For couples whose combined income is less than $250,000, the amount due is reached by subtracting 20 percent of the payee’s gross income from 30 percent of the payor’s gross income. Adding the award to the payee’s gross income may not result in an amount in excess of 40 percent of both parties’ combined gross income. For example, a man with a gross income of $80,000 is responsible for maintenance to his ex-spouse with a gross income of $20,000. The award calculation would be: 30 percent of $80,000, or $24,000, minus 20 percent of $20,000, or $4,000, is equal to $20,000. Since adding the $20,000 award to her gross income would be $40,000 and equal to 40 percent of the combined gross income, $20,000 would be the recommended award according to the law.

Situations may arise in which the court may find the need to deviate from the established formula. The court is granted the discretion to do so, but must enter a finding of what the recommended amount would have been, and the specific justification for awarding a different amount.

Finally, the court must determine how long the maintenance order should be in effect. The amendment provides a sliding scale based on the length of the marriage to be used in setting the order’s duration. The length, in years, of the marriage is to be multiplied by the corresponding value to find the duration of the award:

  • 0.20 for marriages less than 5 years;
  • 0.40 for marriages of 5-10 years;
  • 0.60 for marriages of 10-15 years; and
  • 0.80 for marriages of 15-20 years.

Marriages of 20 or more years are subject to permanent maintenance, or an award at least equal to the length of the marriage. The new provisions also allow the court to order “fixed-term maintenance” for marriages of under 10 years. Once a fixed-term award is completed, maintenance may not be extended. This allows the court discretion to prevent a party from continually requesting extensions of a maintenance award when the marriage itself only lasted a few years.

If you are going through a divorce and wish to file for spousal maintenance in Illinois, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We can help you understand the new provisions of the law so that your rights are protected.
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The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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