Understanding Fixed-Term Maintenance

As part of the family law changes that went into effect this month, courts will now have the authority to enter fixed-term orders for spousal maintenance during a modification review. Dating back to the beginning of last year, fixed-term maintenance has been an option for new orders related to the dissolution of shorter marriages, but has now been extended to modified orders as well.

What is Fixed-Term Maintenance?

Under the law in Illinois, most orders for spousal maintenance are based upon the length of the marriage prior to the divorce. The law provides a sliding scale to determine the length of such awards, with longer marriages being subject to relatively longer periods of support. As with most areas of the law, a showing of good cause can allow orders for spousal maintenance to continue beyond their original length. Doing so, however, can be a lengthy process requiring a great deal of time and attention from the courts.

To prevent such issues following shorter marriages, the Illinois legislature introduced the concept of fixed-term maintenance. Only available for marriages lasting less than 10 years, fixed-term maintenance allows the court to set a permanent termination date in advance, and preventing all future action to extend the order.

Fixed-Term Modifications

Beginning this year, courts in Illinois also have the discretion to convert an existing order for spousal maintenance into a fixed-term order. If the marriage originally lasted less than 10 years, the order may be modified to add a permanent termination date. Thus, any future attempts to pursue future maintenance by the receiving party will be barred.

The courts may elect to use fixed-term maintenance to prevent unnecessary legal wrangling over finances related to a short marriage. In some cases, spouses were returning to court every few years, often asking for support for periods lasting longer than the marriage itself. By limiting future action, the spouse receiving support can understand from the very beginning how long he or she can count on the other spouse’s payments. Within that time, he or she must become financially independent, or find other means of support.

Let Us Help

If you are going through a divorce or currently paying spousal support and would like to explore your options regarding a fixed-term maintenance order, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. We will work with you every step of the way, ensuring your rights are fully protected in the process. Call 708-518-8200 for your free consultation today.