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Kane County spousal maintenance attorneyIf you are facing the possibility of a divorce, you and your spouse will need to resolve a number of issues. For many couples, property and money-related concerns are among the most challenging considerations. You have likely worked hard to earn what you have, so the possibility of “losing” your hard-earned assets during your divorce may not sit well with you. You may also be concerned about the possibility of paying maintenance—also known as spousal support or alimony—which can lead to disagreements as you are headed for a divorce.

Depending on where you are in the divorce process, you may have questions about spousal support and whether it will be a factor in your Illinois divorce. Some of the most frequently asked maintenance questions include:

Will Maintenance Be Awarded Automatically?

Under the law in Illinois, maintenance will only be granted following a divorce if the requesting spouse can prove that such support is needed to facilitate an equitable divorce. Maintenance is not automatic or guaranteed, and requesting it does not mean that it will necessarily be granted. If, however, you and your spouse already have a valid prenuptial agreement that says spousal support is to be paid, you can generally assume that the court will enforce the agreement.

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Kane County alimony lawyerIn today’s world, many married couples rely on two incomes to live comfortably. Getting a divorce means you are no longer using two incomes to pay bills, as you will likely have to make ends meet with your paycheck alone. For some, this may not be a big deal, but for others, it can make supporting themselves very difficult. This is where spousal maintenance could be very helpful. 

Also known as spousal support or alimony, spousal maintenance is either established by an agreement between the spouses or ordered by a judge based on the circumstances of the situation. Maintenance is typically used to allow both spouses to continue a reasonably similar quality of life compared to what they had when they were married.

Factors in Determining Alimony

Spousal maintenance is not guaranteed in all Illinois divorce cases. Absent an agreement between the parties, spousal maintenance will only be awarded when it is needed to make a divorce settlement more equitable. When making determinations about spousal maintenance, the judge will examine the marriage and divorce and will use a specific set of factors to make a decision.

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How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Illinois?For many couples, getting a divorce can be a big financial burden. Going from being a dual-income family to having to run a household on one income can be tough on anyone. In situations in which one spouse may be greatly disadvantaged financially after a divorce, a judge might deem it appropriate to award that person spousal maintenance. In Illinois, spousal maintenance, which is also known as alimony or spousal support, is calculated using a specific formula, and it usually only lasts for a specific period of time. If you are getting a divorce, you should understand the basics of Illinois spousal maintenance.

Calculating Spousal Maintenance

If a spouse is awarded spousal maintenance, the formula set forth by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) will be used to determine the amount of the maintenance award. The formula applies to any couple whose combined gross annual income is less than $500,000. The formula is as follows:

  • 33.3% of payor’s net income - 25% of payee’s net income = Maintenance award

The law also states that the amount determined in that formula is not permitted to be more than 40 percent of the combined gross income of both spouses. The length of time the maintenance award is paid depends on the length of the marriage. The IMDMA sets forth a list of multiplying factors that determine the payment period.

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Reducing Spousal Maintenance Payments During RetirementWhat happens to spousal maintenance after you retire? If you are the person paying maintenance, it would be wrong for you to assume that your maintenance payments will end when you retire. You can terminate maintenance payments only when:

  • You reach the agreed termination date
  • A significant decrease in your income or increase in the recipient’s income makes it appropriate to end payments
  • The recipient remarries
  • The recipient fails to make an effort to become self-supporting

Retirement may give you grounds to decrease your maintenance payments, but terminating payments is unlikely. There are several factors that determine whether and how much you can modify spousal maintenance when you retire.

How Long Is the Spousal Maintenance Supposed to Last?

The duration of your spousal maintenance payments can be a set number of years or indefinite, pending future review or requests for modification. Two circumstances are needed for a court to grant indefinite maintenance:

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What a Review Means for Your Spousal MaintenanceSpousal maintenance that is awarded during a divorce is meant to last for a defined length of time, usually determined by the length of the marriage and the needs of the recipient. In Illinois, maintenance may be permanent if the couple was married for at least 20 years or the recipient spouse has little chance of being able to support themselves. Sometimes, the divorce agreement may state that the parties will review the maintenance after a certain number of years to determine whether it should be extended or terminated. A recent Illinois case, in re Marriage of Brunke, involved two former spouses disagreeing during their maintenance review about whether the maintenance payments should continue and be increased. The court’s ruling on the case explains which factors a court may consider when reviewing a maintenance agreement.

Rehabilitative Maintenance

One of the most important factors is whether the spousal maintenance agreement included a requirement that the recipient attempt to financially support themselves, which is known as rehabilitative maintenance. The court may terminate maintenance if there is a rehabilitative requirement and the recipient did not make a good faith effort to obtain employment or seek a better-paying job. “Good faith effort” accounts for factors such as whether the recipient:

  • Has turned down reasonable employment opportunities
  • Is in the process of obtaining education or training that would qualify them for jobs
  • Is at an age that would make it difficult to find new employment

In the case of in re Marriage of Brunke, the payor claimed that maintenance should be terminated because the recipient had made little effort to find a job, but the court ruled that the recipient’s age of 68 makes it unlikely that she will ever be able to get a job that would support herself.

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