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The Effects of Retirement on Spousal Support

 Posted on May 25, 2017 in Spousal Support

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.

Illinois law holds that spousal support obligations may only be modified if a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. While there is debate about the meaning of that term, generally it is held to have occurred when a person’s income changes by more than a certain amount. The court will consider multiple factors in determining whether a “substantial change” has taken place, including anything that might affect the paying party’s net income. Retirement does fall onto this list of factors, but it is not the only consideration in whether or not a court will reduce or terminate an obligation.

What Are The Options?

After retirement, you and your spouse may be able to work out an arrangement regarding support payments, especially if your relationship is amicable. If you cannot, you could bring the matter before the court to see if a resolution can be reached that way. One important thing to keep in mind is that you must make genuine efforts to become self-supporting all times, lest the court see this as idleness. Unless a person is disabled, Illinois law encourages self-sufficiency in all adults. If you do become self-sufficient in terms of income, your ex-spouse will likely have a very good reason to argue for a reduction or termination of support, regardless of whether they are retired or not.

It is generally easier for a retired spouse to obtain a reduction of support obligations than a complete termination, as evidence in favor of termination must meet a high standard that most cases simply do not. Common instances in which spousal support would be terminated is if the recipient party remarries, or if the payer’s income is so significantly altered upon retirement that to pay any support would place him or her below the poverty line. This is unlikely, however, as what happens in many cases of this type is that support is gradually decreased. For example, the payment amount might be halved for a year, then reduced to a quarter, then finally stopped. This is often better for all involved because it allows both parties time to plan in advance.

Ask a Support Attorney

Retirement brings multiple life changes and questions, and it is important to ensure all of them are managed to your satisfaction, but in a way that does not unduly burden anyone else. For guidance with your case, contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney at A. Traub & Associates. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation at any of our three convenient locations today.



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