It is very rare in divorce proceedings that both parties have the capacity for equal finances after the divorce. One party is almost always going to have the ability to earn more money than the other party. The courts address this through a distribution of assets of the marital property or by awarding spousal support. Most people traditionally refer to this as “alimony”. Alimony is the age old traditional term for spousal support that really is not in use anymore. Nowadays, Illinois courts use the term “maintenance”.
What is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance awards can be either temporary or permanent. Temporary awards are ordered by the court to preserve the status quo of the parties’ finances while the divorce is proceeding through the courts. Permanent awards are typically what the parties agree to in the marital settlement agreement at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, which will govern the future finances of each party once the divorce is final.
Maintenance can be waived, but only upon a showing that the party waiving it is doing so freely and voluntarily. However it is most important to note that once maintenance is waived, it is forever waived. The party that waives it cannot not go back and change their mind and ask the court to award it at a later date.
Maintenance is calculated by looking at several different factors viewed by the court as a whole. No one factor is the sole determining factor that triggers the court to award maintenance. Typically the court considers the earning power of each party, the lifestyle during the marriage, the education level of each party, and if either party forsaken educational opportunities to support the family while the spouse has sought more schooling.
If you are contemplating divorce, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options and how to best protect yourself and your rights going forward.