Knowing What You Want: Asking for Spousal Maintenance in Divorce

The role of each spouse in a marriage is often unique to that particular couple’s needs and circumstances. The days of presuming that the husband will work a nine-to-five job while the wife tends to the home and children are all but gone. Of course, couples are free to choose such an arrangement, just as they are free to choose one in which the wife is the primary breadwinner while the husband works part-time or not at all. The discussion would not be complete without at least mentioning same-sex couples—for whom the concept of traditional gender roles is essentially obsolete. As marriages have evolved, the expectations in divorce have changed across generations as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in the changing approach to spousal maintenance, previously known as alimony.

The Purpose of Maintenance

For many decades, a divorce would tend to leave one spouse—often the wife—at a serious financial disadvantage. In a “traditional” household, one spouse earned and controlled most of the family’s money, so when a marriage ended, the other spouse was frequently ill-equipped to become self-sufficient. The issue was even more serious when children were involved. Alimony, now called spousal maintenance in Illinois, was generally ordered payable by the higher-earning spouse to help offset the impact of the divorce.

Need-Based Considerations

Today, maintenance is never assumed to be automatic in a divorce, unless the couple has already included such requirements in a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Instead, if one spouse requests alimony, the court is required to look closely at the couple’s situation and determine if a need truly exists. The law provides a number of factors that will influence the court’s decision.

If you are considering filing a motion to request maintenance following your divorce, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much income do you earn?
  • How much does your spouse earn?
  • How much are you each likely to earn in the future?
  • What assets and property do you each own, including those being allocated in the divorce?
  • How much of your career did you sacrifice to assume household or parenting duties?
  • How much did you contribute to your spouse’s career and earning ability?
  • How long will it take you to become self-sufficient and will parenting responsibilities allow you to do so?
  • How long were you married?
  • What was the standard of living that you enjoyed during the marriage?

While there are no precise numbers that indicate “yes, maintenance is needed” or “no, maintenance is not needed,” the combination of the statutory factors will provide guidance in determining if it is even worth asking for alimony in your divorce.

If you would like to learn more about spousal maintenance in Illinois or to discuss your case in detail, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule a free confidential consultation at Kezy & Associates today.