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What a Review Means for Your Spousal Maintenance

Posted on in Alimony / Maintenance

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.

Change of Circumstances

The two ways that you can change a spousal maintenance agreement are during a scheduled review or by petitioning for a modification due to a change of circumstances. For instance, either spouse could ask to modify their maintenance agreement before it is scheduled for review if they lost their job. Because a scheduled review does not require a change of circumstances, the court is also interested in whether:

  • The payments have been sufficient to allow the recipient to maintain the same lifestyle as during their marriage
  • It is reasonable to ask the payor to continue making those same payments

In the case of in re Marriage of Brunke, the court ruled that the maintenance payments would continue at the same amount until the payor retires. The recipient argued that the payments should increase because the payor’s annual salary had nearly doubled since their divorce. The court rejected this argument, saying that the recipient was already able to maintain her accustomed standard of living with the current payments and an increase in the payor's income after divorce does not entitle her to larger payments.

Contact a Kane County Divorce Lawyer

Scheduling your spousal maintenance agreement to be reviewed after a certain number of years may be helpful if you and your spouse cannot agree on the amount and how long it should last. A St. Charles, Illinois, divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group can help you negotiate a reasonable level of spousal maintenance. Schedule a free consultation by calling 630-584-4800.


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