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Posted on in Spousal Support

Lombard family law attorneyWhen a married couple divorces, the court may award spousal support to one of the spouses. Spousal support is sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance. It refers to payments that one spouse makes to the other in order to help them financially post-divorce. Spousal support can be based on a court decision, a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement. Maintenance is not always awarded in Illinois. In some cases, both spouses are self-supporting so there is no need for financial assistance. Even if there is a substantial difference in income between the two spouses, courts may account for this difference by awarding more of the marital property to the lower-earning spouse.

Who Gets Spousal Support?

Illinois courts have wide discretion in determining if spousal support will be awarded or not, how much payments will be, and for how long payments will occur. The court must consider the following factors in making decisions about spousal support:

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Lombard family law attorneySpousal support—also known as alimony or maintenance—is found to be appropriate in many divorce cases, and is usually paid to the spouse with lower income. The situation may change, however, when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. It can prevent confusion and lost time if you and your former spouse do your research before retirement becomes an issue.

A “Substantial Change in Circumstances?”

Depending on your situation, the paying party may seek to have their support responsibility reduced or even terminated upon retirement. However, it is not as easy as simply petitioning the court and expecting your request to be approved. As with other requests of this nature, you must be able to present evidence showing that your current support responsibility is unreasonable or excessive in light of the reality of your retirement and the resulting financial effects.

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Lombard family law attorneysIf you are planning on filing for divorce and either you or your spouse are at a distinct financial disadvantage, the lower- or non-earning spouse may be entitled to spousal support. What exactly does this mean for your case? The following can help you understand the basics of spousal support (alimony).

When Is Spousal Support Awarded?

Spousal support is known in Illinois law as maintenance and can be awarded to any financially disadvantaged spouse. It may be needed because the wife worked as the sole or primary income earner and the husband stayed home with the children, which puts him at a disadvantage after the divorce. Alternatively, it may be awarded to a wife who has sacrificed her own education or career to advance the high-powered career of her husband. It may even be needed if one spouse became unable to work because of health issues. Whatever the situation may be, the purpose of spousal support is always the same: it is meant to temporarily or permanently offset the financial disadvantage of the lesser- or non-earning spouse may experience after divorce.

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spousal support, Lombard family law attorneyWhen a couple with children gets divorced, there is a presumption that one parent—usually the one with few parental responsibilities—will be expected to pay child support. There is no such presumption in Illinois regarding spousal support, sometimes known as spousal maintenance or alimony. Instead, spousal support is awarded on a case-by-case basis, upon establishment by the court of a spouse’s need. Once the need has been determined and spousal maintenance has been deemed appropriate, the court is then tasked with determining how much the supporting spouse is required to pay and for how long.

Statutory Standards

Prior to 2015, the court was granted full discretion to set the amount and duration of spousal support orders. As one might expect, this led to vast disparities between orders issued by different judges, who were guided by their principles of what seemed fair and constituted meeting a spouse’s needs. Beginning in 2015, however, a new law was enacted that provided a standard calculation formula to be used in the majority of divorce cases in Illinois. The statutory formula will apply in your case if you and your spouse together do not make more than $250,000 per year, and you, as the payor, are not currently supporting children or a spouse from a previous relationship.

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spousal maintenance, Orland Park family law attorneysOver the last several years, Illinois has been one of several states to review and update laws regarding spousal maintenance, or alimony as it is often known. In this state specifically, maintenance is to be awarded only when needed and justified by the circumstances of an individual divorce and is never presumed to be automatic. While the application of the law is up to each judge to apply his or her own standard of need to a case, the intended effect is to reserve such awards for only the most appropriate situations. Placing limits on spousal maintenance may create some difficulties for those who are recently divorced, but some experts are suggesting that these same limits may lead to overall positive changes in the way that women approach finances in both marriage and divorce.

Shift in Thinking

The law regarding spousal maintenance is technically gender-neutral, and there are cases in which men receive support from their ex-wives following a divorce. The reality is—as most people assume—that the vast majority of maintenance recipients are women, as alimony laws were generally intended to support women with financial disadvantages. Today, however, society, as a whole, is geared toward encouraging women to be professionally, personally, and financially independent. Reliance on spousal maintenance as an institution stands in direct opposition to these ideals.

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