Spousal support is the court-ordered payment of money to a former spouse after a dissolution of marriage. Spousal support can be a source of contention after a separation where one spouse feels they should not have to pay to support the other person after a dissolution, or the individual receiving alimony feels like they should be receiving more money. If you have any questions about spousal support payments after a dissolution, talk to an experienced Illinois family law attorney to understand your rights.
Spousal Support in Illinois
Spousal support is also known as spousal maintenance or alimony. There are a number of factors considered when determining the amount of spousal maintenance the Court may award after a dissolution. The cause of the dissolution or fault of one spouse or another is not a factor in determining whether spousal support should be awarded.
In recent years Illinois passed a law providing for a mathematical formula to determine the amount of spousal maintenance for most couples with gross income under $250,000.
Prior to 2015, judges in Illinois had the discretion to determine what a maintenance award should be. Judges have some discretion to determine whether or not spousal maintenance should be awarded; however, if they find it appropriate to award spousal support, judges are to follow the mathematical formula unless they set out specifically why they are not choosing to follow in the particular case.
In determining whether or not spousal maintenance is appropriate, judges consider 12 factors. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, these factors include:
- The income and property of each party;
- The needs of each party;
- The realistic present and future earning capacity;
- Any impairment of earning capacity due to domestic duties and foregone career or training opportunities;
- Impairment of present and future earning capacity of the party against whom maintenance is sought;
- The time necessary to acquire education and employment opportunities;
- The standard of living during marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, health, station, occupation, employability, needs, liabilities and sources of income;
- All sources of income, including disability and retirement income;
- Tax consequences of property division; and
- Contributions and services to the education, training and career of the other spouse.
In addition to these 12 factors, a judge can also consider any other factors the Court finds relevant when deciding whether a maintenance award is appropriate. This includes any valid agreement made by the parties, such as a prenuptial agreement made before marriage.
Calculating Spousal Maintenance
Before judges in Illinois apply the new calculation to spousal support calculations, they need to determine if spousal support is appropriate. This includes couples with a gross income of no more than $250,000 and the payer spouse has no obligations to pay child support and/or maintenance from a prior relationship
Generally speaking, the amount of spousal maintenance is calculated as 30% of the gross income of the spouse who will pay maintenance minus 20% of the gross income of the spouse who will receive spousal support. The amount payable as spousal support is subject to the limitation that the receiving spouse's gross income + the spousal support received cannot exceed 40% of the spouse's combined gross income.
In addition to calculating the amount of spousal support, judges use another formula to determine how long spousal maintenance is paid. The longer the marriage, the longer the duration of spousal maintenance.
For marriages that lasted between 0 and 5 years, the duration is 20% of the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting from 5-10 years in duration, support is paid for 40% of the time of the marriage. Maintenance is paid for 60% of the length of marriages lasting between 10 and 15 years, and for 80% of the length of marriages lasting 15 to 20 years. The judge has discretion on the length of support for marriages that lasted longer than 20 years.
Changes to Spousal Support Awards
Spousal support is to be paid according to the terms set by the Court for the duration of the award term; however, there are a number of situations that may require a change to the spousal maintenance award. This includes changes in circumstances for the individual paying maintenance or the individual receiving maintenance.
If the individual receiving spousal support remarries or if either party dies, retires, or has some other significant life event, that may result in a change to the spousal maintenance order. If the individual paying support loses their job, they may be able to modify the spousal support terms; however, the loss of the job cannot be voluntary. Before ending spousal support for any reason you should seek Court approval for a modification or termination of spousal support. Violating the spousal maintenance plan could result in court sanctions or penalties. If you want to change or modify the support terms, talk to an experienced family law attorney, who can seek a modification through the Court.
Not Receiving Spousal Support Payments
If you have been awarded spousal maintenance after a dissolution, you are supposed to receive timely and regular payments according to the terms of the award. If you have not been receiving payments, you may need to seek legal intervention. There may be a number of reasons why a former spouse is not providing spousal support payments, including claims they do not have the money, or simply because they are still upset about the separation and do not want to pay.
If you are not receiving payments, contact your Illinois family law attorney. He or she will take action to force your former spouse to make payments as required by the law. If your former spouse is having a hard time paying support, it is his or her responsibility to seek a modification. You should not have to suffer late or missing payments through no fault of your own.
Illinois Family Law Attorneys
If you are going through a dissolution or separation, an experienced Illinois family law attorney can help you through the process and answer your questions involving spousal support, child support, parenting plans and other issues. If you have already gone through a dissolution and are seeking changes to a spousal support award because of changed circumstances, our attorneys are here to help. We will let you know your rights and advise you of all your options. At Benassi & Benassi we are committed to getting the best for our clients and their families.