When a marriage comes to an end, both spouses often find themselves in challenging financial situations. In many cases, however, one spouse is frequently more economically disadvantaged, having relied the other spouse’s income throughout much of the marriage. Spousal maintenance
, sometimes known as alimony, may provide some measure of relief to a person in such a situation, and the state of Illinois has rather specific guidelines that family courts are expected to follow in awarding support.
Is Maintenance Needed?
The first step in the process, according the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, is determining whether a spousal maintenance award is truly necessary. To do so, and assuming there is not a valid agreement between the divorcing parties, the court will take a close look at the circumstances of the marriage and divorce. Factors including the health, occupation, and income of each spouse, along with each party’s contribution to the other’s earning capacity, arrangements made for the children, the length of the marriage, and many others must be considered in making the decision. If the court finds that support is appropriate, it must then calculate the amount to be paid and the intended length of the award.
Amount of a Spousal Maintenance Award
For couples with a combined income of more than $250,000 and those with specific complicating factors, the court has full discretion over the length and amount of spousal support. Otherwise, the court is expected to use the formulas provided by the statute. The amount of maintenance to be paid, according to the law, should be 30 percent of the payor’s gross income minus 20 percent of the payee’s gross income. The maintenance amount, however, added to the payee’s income may not exceed 40 percent of the couple’s combined income.
Duration of a Spousal Maintenance Award
To determine how long the order will remain in force, the law provides a sliding percentage scale based on the length of the marriage. Longer marriages result in relatively longer maintenance orders. The length of the marriage is multiplied by the appropriate percentage factor to establish the duration. Percentages are set by the statute as:
- 20 percent for marriages of up to 5 years;
- 40 percent for marriages of 5 to 10 years;
- 60 percent for marriages of 10 to 15 years;
- 80 percent for marriages of 15 to 20 years; and
- Permanent maintenance or equal to the length of the marriage for marriages of 20 years or more.
Husband, making $100,000 per year, and Wife, making $50,000 are getting divorced after ten years of marriage and maintenance was found to be appropriate. The calculations would be as follows:
30 percent of the payor's income: $100,000 x 30% = $30,000 minus
20 percent of the payee's income: $50,000 x 20% = $10,000
equals: $20,000, however,