The decision to divorce is a difficult one under the best of circumstances. The process of divorce can be challenging as well, as a couple must decide, or leave the court to decide, on considerations such as property division, child custody and support issues, and, in some cases, spousal maintenance.
In the state of Illinois, any financial support provided to a party by his or her former spouse following a divorce is known as spousal maintenance, or spousal support. Commonly referred to as alimony in other jurisdictions, a maintenance award is meant to help ensure that neither spouse is caused undue financial hardship by the dissolution of the marriage. A couple may reach an agreement regarding support prior to the involvement of the court, and in most cases, the court will approve the couple’s plan. There may be times, however, when the court must determine the necessity and the specifics of a maintenance award on its own.
Appropriateness of a Spousal Maintenance Award
State law requires the court, in any situation in which a support order may be needed, to consider a number of factors in determining the appropriateness or necessity of the award. Considerations include, but are not limited to:
- The income, assets, needs, and earning capacity of each spouse;
- The effect of domestic responsibilities, such as raising children, on a spouse’s earning capacity;
- The time and any complicating factors involved in a party becoming self-sufficient;
- The duration of the marriage and the standard of living established; and
- The contributions made previously by the spouse seeking support to the earning capacity of the other party.
Amount of a Spousal Maintenance Award
Once the court has determined that an award is appropriate based on the circumstances of the marriage and divorce, the law provides a standard formula for calculating the amount of the award. Using both parties’ gross income, the recommended amount under law is equal to 30 percent of the payor’s income minus 20 percent of the payee’s income. The award plus the payee’s income, may not result in a total that exceeds 40 percent of the couple’s combined income.
Duration of a Spousal Maintenance Award
State law also provides a standard formula for calculating how long the award should be in effect. The duration of an award is recommended to be the length of the marriage multiplied by a percentage factor prescribed in the law. The appropriate percentage factor is found a weighted table, allowing longer marriages to result in relative longer awards.
An Award Example
John and Jane are divorcing after nine years of marriage and the court has determined spousal maintenance to be appropriate. John’s gross income is $75,000, and Jane’s is $25,000. The recommended award amount would be 30 percent of $75,000, or $22,500, minus 20 percent of $25,000, or $5,000, equaling $17,500. However, adding that amount to Jane’s income equals $42,500, which exceeds 40 percent of the combined total of $100,000. Thus the award would be reduced to $15,000 to satisfy the law’s requirements.
The percentage factor specified in the law for a nine year marriage is 40 percent. The expected duration of the award is found by multiplying nine years by 0.4 equaling 3.6 years or just over 43 months.
Every Divorce is Different
The law provides a standard calculation method for determining the recommended specifics of maintenance awards, but also allows for some customization based on individual situations. The court is granted the discretion to deviate from the guidelines, but only after using them to create a baseline. If there is a compelling circumstantial reason to alter the calculation, the court may do so, but the reason must be clarified and entered in the record.
If you are considering divorce in Illinois, and would like to know more about how spousal maintenance laws might apply to your situation, contact an experienced family law attorney in Will County today. We will review your case and can provide the legal assistance you need throughout every step of the divorce process.