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How Recent Changes to the Law Affect Spousal Support Awards

Posted on in Alimony / Maintenance

Kane County family law attorneysThe financial implications of a divorce cannot be overstated. This reality is especially true for those that put a career on hold to raise a family or to advance the professional aspirations of their spouse. Even in marriages where both spouses work, one often makes much less than the other and could face financial hardships following divorce. These individuals may need some measure of spousal support to meet necessary expenses.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Legislature enacted a number of significant changes to the divorce laws, including provisions related to spousal support. These changes reflect efforts to make it to easier to get divorced and to give the outcome of divorce cases more predictability. On the issue of spousal support, predictability is extremely important to parties that do not earn a lot of money and must worry about paying the bills on one income following a divorce.

Deciding When Spousal Support Is Appropriate

Any request for spousal support, absent an agreement of the parties, must first be evaluated and granted by the court. Spousal support is not automatic, and will only be given when the court believes it to be appropriate. To determine whether spousal support is justified, the court looks at number of factors, including:

  • Each party’s income and property holdings, including the assets and liabilities received and assumed by each as a result of the divorce;
  • The needs of each party;
  • The earning capacity of each party;
  • The impact on earning potential for the party asking for support if he/she stayed at home or passed on career opportunities for the sake of the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The amount of time and training it would take the party asking for support to acquire the skills and employment necessary to provide for him/herself;
  • The age, health, employability and liabilities of each party; and
  • The ability of a party to absorb the tax consequences of property division post-divorce.

Award Guidelines for Couples Earning Less Than $250,000

Once a court decides that a request for spousal support is valid, it must then determine the amount and length of time the support will last. Few cases call for permanent support, so most spousal support awards are for a finite period of time. As noted above, changes were made to the rules on spousal support awards for couples with an annual combined income of less than $250,000. Under the new provisions, the amount and duration of spousal support awards is now standardized and calculated using a predetermined formula. Those who make above this amount are still subject to a judge's discretion in resolving these matters unless they mutually agree to a settlement.

Since a substantial number of divorcing couples fall within the new income guidelines, a brief explanation of how they are applied is worthwhile. First, in addition to the income requirements, the payor must not have child support or spousal support obligations from a previous relationship. Once these criteria are met, the support is calculated by subtracting 20 percent of the payee's gross income from 30 percent of the payor's gross income. The duration of the support is based on the length of the marriage multiplied by predetermined factors. For example, couples married for 10 years would multiply 10 by a factor of 0.60 (set by statute) to arrive at six years of spousal support, if granted. Judges are permitted to award parties in marriages of more than 20 years with lifetime support or spousal support equaling the length of the marriage.

Speak With an Illinois Divorce Attorney

Supporting yourself after divorce is a crucial issue that should be addressed within the confines of your divorce case. While spousal support is not guaranteed, an experienced Kane County divorce attorney can help you fully understand the law and your options. Call 630-584-4800 for a free consultation today.



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