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Changes to spousal maintenance in Illinois

Legal changes over the past years have affected the way spousal support or maintenance is calculated in Illinois. Maintenance, once known as alimony, is a post-divorce payment from one spouse to the other to help provide a financial equalizer, especially when there is a significant earning disparity between the parties. Before 2015, maintenance payments were awarded at the discretion of the court, taking into account a range of factors such as each party’s income and property, their respective earning capacities and the length of the marriage.

While the basis for this model was sound, it often resulted in widely disparate decisions from one case to another. Therefore, the Illinois legislature revised the laws relating to spousal maintenance for couples earning $250,000 each year or less by determining a formula for spousal maintenance that applies to these couples. In 2018, that was expanded to encompass couples earning $500,000 or less each year.

Under the state spousal support formula, maintenance is calculated by subtracting 20 percent of the recipient’s gross income from 30 percent of the payer’s gross income. Thus, if the payer makes $200,000 and the recipient earns $30,000 each year, the court would subtract $6,000 from $60,000, leading to a maintenance calculation of $54,000 annually. However, the spouse receiving maintenance cannot end up with more than 40 percent of the couple’s gross income. Finally, the duration of the maintenance payment is based on the length of the marriage. People married over 20 years are eligible for permanent maintenance.

Financial issues are some of the most complex parts of the end of a marriage. Spouses who are moving toward divorce can consult with a family law attorney about how this law applies to their circumstances and how they can reach a fair settlement on these divorce legal issues.