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Calculating Your Spousal Support Obligations

 Posted on May 06, 2016 in Spousal Support

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.

By the Numbers

Assuming the formula applies and that you will be the paying spouse, your obligation will be calculated by taking 30 percent of your gross income and subtracting 20 percent of your spouse’s gross income. The difference will be the amount that should be paid, as long as the difference plus your spouse’s income does not exceed 40 percent of you and your spouse’s total income. The amount you pay would be reduced to meet this requirement.

For example, you make $85,000 per year, and your spouse makes $35,000. The calculation would begin by taking 30 percent of $85,000, or $25,500, and subtracting 20 percent of $35,000, or $7,000. The difference would be $18,500. When added to your spouse’s income of $35,000, the total is $53,500, which is about 45 percent of your combined income of $120,000. To meet the limitation in the law, your obligation would be reduced to $13,000.

Length of the Award

The law also provides a scale for determining how long a support award will remain in effect as a function of the length of the marriage. Longer marriages result in relatively longer-lasting support obligations. A marriage of 5 years, for example, would result a support order for 1 year, or 20 percent of the marriage duration, while a marriage of 20 years would result in obligations lasting for 16 years, or 80 percent.

Individual Considerations

The court does retain the discretion to deviate from statutory formula if, based on specific findings, it is necessary to do so. That, perhaps, is the most important reason to contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney if you are involved in a spousal support proceeding. Despite the standards in the law, we can help you explain your situation to the court, and will work with you to obtain an outcome that meets your needs and protects your rights. Schedule your confidential consultation today.


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