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If you have been considering filing for divorce, you probably have many questions and concerns. One such question may be “Will I have to make support payments to my ex-spouse?” Spousal support, also called spousal maintenance or alimony, helps limit the negative financial effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. In the past, payments were almost always made by an ex-husband to his ex-wife. Today, both men and women are recipients of support and both men and women may be required to pay it. Spousal support can be based on a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement or a court decision.
How Is Alimony Awarded?
Courts have the authority to make decisions about spousal support during a divorce. A judge will look at several factors in order to determine what the fairest arrangement would be. When making decisions about spousal support courts must consider:
It seems as if everyone is getting divorced nowadays: young couples, those who have been married 50 years or more, celebrities, and politicians. Despite the rise in divorce rates across many different demographics, there are still many misconceptions that people have with regard to the divorce process. Many of these mistaken beliefs are the product of the divorce process being over-simplified or dramatized for television or movies. One of the most common misunderstandings for many people is their concept of spousal maintenance, also known as alimony.
History of Spousal Maintenance
Throughout the years, alimony laws have evolved as society has changed. Before 1977, Illinois law required property to be allocated in divorces according to the asset’s owner. This often left a husband with substantially more property than the wife. To combat this inequity, courts frequently required the husband to make support payments to his former wife in the form of alimony. In 1977, the concept of “marital property” was created. This meant that property was now more equally divided and spousal maintenance was awarded less often. There have been many small updates and changes to spousal maintenance statutes since then, each for the purpose of clarifying when and if a situation required spousal support.
Movies and pop culture would have us believe that spousal support is almost always granted to one spouse—usually the wife—during a divorce. However, this is not always the case. There are many divorce cases in Illinois where maintenance is deemed unnecessary for a variety of reasons. If you are in the process of divorcing, it is important that you understand the reality of spousal support, legally known as maintenance in Illinois.
Factors to Consider
In order to determine whether support is appropriate or not, the court must consider a list of many different factors. Some of the relevant questions include:
If you are a stay-at-home parent on the verge of divorce, your life is likely to change dramatically. The very nature of a stay-at-home mom or dad—as opposed to a parent who works from home—means that he or she relies on his or her spouse to provide financially for the family. In the wake of divorce, a stay-at-home parent could be at a very serious disadvantage. Fortunately, such parents often have a number of options available to help offset some of the financial effects of a divorce, and a seasoned family law attorney can assist you in exploring them all.
Maintenance—also called alimony—is one of the most common tools that the courts use to help stay-at-home parents following a divorce. According to Illinois law, the court has the authority to order maintenance if either spouse has a legitimate need. The court must consider a number of factors in determining such a need, and your stay-at-home parent status is certainly one of them, but that alone is not necessarily enough to justify an award.
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, you may be concerned about the financial implications of such a decision. The process itself can be very expensive in some situations, but you could also be worried about making it on your own, especially if your spouse was the primary wage-earner in your family. To address this concern, you may consider including a request for maintenance with your divorce filing. Maintenance payments, sometimes known as alimony, may be ordered to help offset some of the economic challenges that can be created by your divorce. Such payments are not guaranteed, however, and the court must identify a spouse’s need before maintenance is awarded.
There are many factors that the court will take into account when deciding on the appropriateness of a maintenance order, including the lifestyle that the couple established in their marriage and how the marital property will be or has been divided in the divorce. As you might expect, each spouse’s income must also be considered, but the court will look at more than just how much you and your spouse actually earn. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that the court must also take into account “the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party.”