Formerly known as “alimony”, financial support paid by one party to the other is called “maintenance” or “spousal support”. Not all cases involve support of one spouse by the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially, for a temporary or permanent basis, is made on a case-by-case basis as agreed by the parties, or, if the parties are unable to decide between themselves, at the Court’s discretion.
Effective January 1, 2015, Illinois amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/504. Maintenance, which is also known as spousal support (also referred to as alimony by the Internal Revenue Service), in Illinois will now be based upon a formula.
Before applying the formula, the court must decide whether Maintenance/Alimony is appropriate under the circumstances. The court will apply a factor analysis to determine whether maintenance is appropriate. These factors include:
- the duration of the marriage;
- the standard of living established during the marriage;
- the income and the needs of each party;
- whether one spouse deferred high education or career opportunities to stay home while the other spouse progressed in his or her career;
If the court decides to order maintenance, it can do so either in accordance with guidelines or not in accordance with guidelines. The court must use specific guidelines if the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and there is no multiple family situation.
Under the guidelines, the amount of maintenance is based on a statutory formula. You calculate the amount by taking 30 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income and subtracting 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s income. The guidelines impose a limit to maintenance, as the amount may not result in the receiving spouse getting more than 40 percent of the combined income of the parties. The duration of the award is calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by the applicable factor. For marriages lasting:
• 0 to 5 years, the multiple is .20;
• 5 to 10 years, the multiple is .40;
• 10 to 15 years, the multiple is .60;
• 15 to 20 years, the multiple is .80; and
• 20 or more years, the court may either make the duration equal to the length of the marriage (i.e., a multiple of 1.0) or make maintenance permanent.
Here is an online calculator that you can use to estimate the amount of maintenance that is due from one spouse to the other: On-Line Maintenance (Alimony) Calculator
Generally, for a payment to qualify as maintenance, all of the following criteria must be met:
– the parties are not members of the same household when the payment is made;
– the parties are not filing a joint tax return for the period when the payment is made;
– the payment is made by cash or check (either directly or distributed through the state);
– the payment is made due to a written divorce or settlement agreement;
– the payments terminate upon the death of the receiving party;
– the payments do not constitute, nor are a substitute for, child support;
Under Illinois law, the court may grant a temporary or permanent maintenance award for either spouse.
Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act outlines the types of alimony, as well as what relevant factors may be taken into consideration when awarding maintenance.
If you signed an agreement about maintenance or spousal support, the court is likely to be “bound” by that agreement. This means that the court will not be able to change the agreement as part of your divorce. An agreement between spouses can be broader than what the court might decide if asked to award support on its own. For example, the court will only award a periodic monetary payment, however an agreement may cover payment of a mortgage or other type of support.