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The Changing Landscape of Illinois Spousal Maintenance

Posted on in Divorce
Lombard family law attorney, spousal maintenance, new laws, spousal support

Each year in Illinois, hundreds of measures are enacted into law at the state level, addressing issues from across the political spectrum. On January 1, 2015, more than 200 new laws or amendments went into effect across Illinois. Of these new statutes, Public Act 98-0961 is likely to impact those who may be considering divorce in the near future as it amended the existing law regarding spousal maintenance.

The amended law was passed in August of last year and was scheduled to take effect in 2015, just in time for the start of "divorce season." As the courts prepare for a renewed rush of divorce filings between January and March, couples and divorce attorneys should be aware of how the amendment may affect their individual situations. While the court retains discretion over determining the appropriateness of spousal maintenance, or alimony, the formula with which the amount and duration of the award is calculated has now been standardized.

Amount of Spousal Maintenance

Under the previous version of the statute, the court was tasked with figuring out an acceptable maintenance amount, based only on the circumstances of the case and the judge’s discretion. The state provided no guidelines or recommendations awards varied widely depending on the judge. To address this inherent unpredictability, the amended law provides a formula for determining a recommended annual award amount using both parties’ annual gross income.

Specifically, the award amount should be equal to 30 percent of the payor’s income minus 20 percent of the payee’s income, but cannot exceed 40 percent of the couple’s combined income when added to the payee’s income. In the hypothetical case of a divorcing couple in which the husband makes $60,000 per year and the wife makes $20,000, their award calculation would be: 30 percent of $60,000, or $18,000, minus 20 percent of $20,000, or $4,000, which equals $14,000. Adding $14,000 to the wife’s annual $20,000 totals $34,000, which is 42.5 percent of their combined $80,000 annual income. The award must therefore be reduced to $12,000 to meet the requirements of the law.

Length of Spousal Maintenance

Before the amended law took effect, the court was also responsible for establishing a reasonable duration for maintenance awards, again, based on the subjective specifics of the case. Under the new guidelines, the length of the award is a weighted function of the marriage length. The number of years of marriage is to be multiplied by the percentage factor specified in the law. The value of the percentage factor is set forth in a table within the law, and result in longer marriages carrying longer, or potentially permanent, awards.

Following a marriage which lasted seven years, for example, the percentage factor would be 40 percent. Thus, the resulting award duration would be 40 percent of seven years, or about 34 months. Variations

Despite the existence of an established formula, there may be situations in which the new guidelines would be inappropriate for any number of reasons. As such, the court is given discretion under the law to deviate from the prescribed recommendations by entering a finding to that effect. The law, however, does require the court to at least consider the amount calculated by law before opting to alter the award based on the couple or family’s circumstances.

If you are considering divorce in Illinois, you need to know how the new spousal maintenance laws may affect you. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today at A. Traub & Associates. We can help you navigate the divorce process and ensure your rights under the law are fully protected.

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