Despite the rise in divorce in American culture in the last few decades, there are still a number of pervasive misconceptions about the process and the laws that govern it. In many cases, these misunderstandings are the result of overly simplified, dramatic depictions of divorce in movies, television, and music. Among the most common misconceptions is the cultural notion of spousal maintenance, or alimony, and whether one spouse—traditionally the wife—is entitled to it.
History of Spousal Maintenance
Alimony laws have evolved over the years and have been particularly impacted by changes to the related statutes regarding asset division in divorce. Prior to 1977, Illinois law required property to be allocated in divorce according to the asset’s registered owner. In practice, this meant that most divorce situations left a husband with most of the property and the wife with very little. Therefore, courts frequently required the divorcing husband to make support payments, often on a permanent basis.
In 1977, changes to the law created the concept of “marital property,” which was to be divided more equitably between the spouses. The change also affected the way in which spousal maintenance was awarded, making such an award far less common. Since then, a number of smaller updates to the spousal maintenance statutes have been made, clarifying the court’s discretion to award maintenance if, and only if, an individual situation required it.
Neither spouse is automatically entitled to spousal maintenance under current Illinois laws. Instead, any case in which maintenance is requested must be carefully considered by the court. In making its decision, the court is statutorily required to take into account:
- The income and resources of each spouse, including property being allocated in the divorce;
- Each spouse’s needs;
- Each spouse’s realistic current and future earning capacity;
- How the marriage and domestic duties impacted the earning capacity of the spouse requesting maintenance;
- The time needed for the spouse requesting maintenance to become self-sufficient, if at all possible;
- The length of the marriage;
- The lifestyle and standard of living during the marriage;
- Each spouse’s age, health, skills, occupation, employability, and sources of income;
- Contributions made by the spouse seeking maintenance to the education, training, career, and employability of the other spouse; and
- Any valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement between the spouses.
The court must enter specific findings as to why maintenance is or is not appropriate. If an award is needed, the law also provides a basic formula for calculating the amount and duration of the maintenance to be awarded in most cases.
Let Us Help
If you have additional questions about spousal maintenance or any other element of divorce, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.