Spousal Maintenance in Illinois
Alimony no longer exists under Illinois Law. With the last revision to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMMDA), financial support from one spouse to another spouse is now known as “spousal maintenance” in Illinois courts. The concept is the same; it is the terminology that has changed. Alimony can be either temporary or permanent, and it is used to ensure both parties can become financially stable after a divorce.
How is Alimony Decided in Illinois?
The court looks into many factors in determining if either party is eligible for alimony, including:
- Residential requirement, meaning at least one of the parties in the dissolution action must be a resident of the state of Illinois for at least ninety (90) days prior to the filing of any dissolution action seeking maintenance;
- Both parties’ income and property holdings;
- The length of the marriage;
- The current and future earning potential of the spouse seeking alimony, including any difficulties that may arise because one spouse left the workforce or neglected to pursue further educational or employment opportunities because of the marriage;
- The financial needs of each partner;
- The standard or living both parties had grown accustomed to during the marriage;
- The age and psychical/emotional condition of both parties; and
- Any other relevant factors, like possible tax penalties or future medical bills.
Say, for example, a husband and wife were to get divorced after 20 years of marriage. During the marriage, the husband continued his career to provide for the family while the mother stayed home to raise the children. Now that they are divorced, the husband still has his career, but the mother may need to find a job in order to support herself. This can be difficult to do if she has been out of the workforce for a long time.
In a situation like the one above, the judge could grant alimony to the wife to help her, at least to some extent, maintain the lifestyle she was accustomed to during marriage. Also, it’s important to remember that alimony can be awarded to either spouse, so if the roles in the above situation were reversed, the father could be eligible to receive alimony.
While the court looks at many different factors when determining alimony, two factors that are not considered are:
- Who is at “fault” for the divorce; or
- If there was martial misconduct.
Duration of the Maintenance Award
Not only will the court consider whether to award maintenance or not, the court also considers how long award maintenance should be awarded. This is up to the discretion of the court; however, the spouse seeking maintenance can pursue either a temporary or a permanent award.
Temporary vs. Permanent Alimony
There is no absolute presumption by the court whether maintenance should be awarded on a permanent or temporary basis. It is determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
Short-term or temporary alimony allows one party to receive assistance while they go through the necessary steps to become self-supportive. For example, let’s say a husband postponed going to a two-year technical school to get his HVAC certification because the family decided the mother would continue to work while the dad stayed home with the kids. A judge might rule that the husband is entitled to receive 30 months of temporary alimony – 24 months of payments to offset bills while the husband goes back to school to get his certification, and six months of payments while the husband is looking for full-time work.
Permanent alimony is issued in good faith that the person receiving the payments will work towards becoming self-supportive, but the court understands that it isn’t always possible. If one party simply can’t find work, or they have a medical condition that makes it difficult for them to become self-supportive, alimony can continue indefinitely. The important factor to consider with any award of permanent maintenance is that it remains permanent so long as the spouse receiving it remains living and unmarried. As a matter of law, any award for permanent maintenance will terminate upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or upon a showing that spouse is a carrying on a co-habitation relationship with a significant other.
That said, any award of maintenance can be re-evaluated by the courts based upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” from when the judge first issued the award. Courts can then increase, decrease, or even terminate the maintenance arrangement at their discretion based upon this change in circumstances.
Naperville Alimony Lawyers
At Appelman Law, we’re knowledgeable in all forms of maintenance disputes. Whether you’re looking to receive support from your ex, or you want to keep as much of your money as possible, we can help you with your case. Contact us for a free consultation – (630) 717-7801.