If you are currently paying spousal maintenance or alimony, as it is often known, you have probably wondered, at some point, how long such payments will need to continue. As with most aspects of divorce, the answer depends on the circumstances of your situation and those of your ex-spouse. In some cases, based upon the terms of judgment for dissolution of marriage, your payments may continue for a pre-determined number of months or years; in others, they may be extended based on appropriateness and need. Finally, the actions and decisions of the party who is receiving maintenance can also have a direct impact on the continuation of support payments.
New or Recently Modified Maintenance Orders
At the beginning of 2015, new guidelines for the calculation of spousal maintenance went into effect in Illinois. In situations where the parties’ combined income is under $250,000, the duration of most maintenance orders is determined as a percentage of the length of the marriage. The percentages are provided in the law, and are weighted such that longer marriages result in a relatively longer period of maintenance. For example, if maintenance was found to be appropriate following the dissolution of a marriage that lasted 12 years, the specified percentage would be 60 percent. Thus, the resulting maintenance order would be effective for 7.2 years, or about 86 months.
Previously Entered Orders
Prior to the new guidelines, the court maintained full discretion over maintenance concerns, and was expected to make awards based upon consideration of a number of factors. These included each spouse’s income, needs, contributions, and ability to become financially independent. The order may have included provisions for periodic review, the ability to request continuations, and other language that impacted the length of expected payments. If your order has not been affected by the standardized calculation guidelines, you may need the assistance of a qualified divorce attorney to better understand the extent of your obligations.
Actions of the Receiving Spouse
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, certain events can trigger an automatic termination of spousal maintenance. If and when the receiving party remarries or “cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis,” the obligation to pay is terminated. Case law throughout the state has determined that the cohabitation clause includes any mutual living arrangement in which the parties are effectively behaving as a married couple from a domestic and financial perspective. There is no requirement of a sexual relationship, nor is the existence of a sexual relationship alone enough to terminate maintenance.
Help for Your Case
Understanding the full implications of a spousal maintenance order can be difficult, as the included provisions and applicable laws may seem vague or unclear. Fortunately, the experienced Kane County family law attorneys at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., can help. Contact our office today for a free consultation. We will review your situation and assist you in remaining fully compliant with all of your legal obligations.