Illinois Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)

Spousal Support and Children

In Illinois, either party to a divorce can be entitled to receive maintenance – which used to be called “spousal support” or “alimony.” Maintenance is intended to help the low or no-income ex-spouse become self-supporting. It is often paid while the ex-spouse goes back to college to qualify for a better-paying job, or to give them time to get back into the workforce if they have been a stay-at-home parent during the marriage.

Many years ago, when most wives were stay-at-home moms with little or no work experience, they would receive alimony from their husbands when they divorced. Times have changed, and today, wives are paying maintenance to their ex-husbands and vice-versa – depending on who makes more money.

Although it might be possible in theory for a stay-at-home-spouse to return to work immediately their divorce has been finalized, in reality, it is extremely unlikely. Aside from the potential need for a spouse to retrain or complete a diploma or degree before seeking employment, consider your children’s ages and your child-care options as well.

If your children are young, it might be more practical to wait until the youngest is in school full-time before re-entering the workforce. Paying for full-time daycare for three kids could cost a lot more than your maintenance payments – not to mention the emotional consequences for young children who have just lost their two-parent home and life.

Maintenance is based on a formula that takes many facts about the marriage and each spouse into account to help the court decide whether one spouse should receive maintenance, what the amount should be, and whether maintenance will be temporary, or for five years, or permanent for some long-term marriages (of 20 years or more).

Factors deciding spousal support / alimony in Illinois

The factors a judge will consider when deciding whether or not to award spousal support / alimony include:

  • The income and separate property owned by each spouse.
  • One spouse’s need to receive financial support, and the other spouse’s ability to pay it.
  • Each spouse’s earning potential – both now and in the future.
  • The time and money one spouse requires to get a job, or the training and education required to get a (better) job.
  • The couple’s lifestyle during the marriage.
  • The length of marriage.
  • The age and physical and mental health of each spouse.
  • Any agreements between the spouses dealing with support – such as a prenuptial agreement.

Contrary to popular belief, fault does not play a role in a maintenance award, so it doesn’t matter whether one spouse had an affair, or has a substance abuse problem, or was physically or emotionally abusive.

Spousal maintenance can be one of the most hotly disputed and emotionally charged issues in a divorce case. If you think you may have to pay – or be entitled to receive – maintenance to/from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, you need an experienced maintenance and alimony attorney to guide you through the process. Serving Dupage, Cook, and Will County, knowledgeable Oakbrook Terrace family lawyer Dheanna Fikaris will protect your rights while making your Illinois maintenance dispute as stress-free as possible.

Spousal Support / Alimony During Divorce

Since a divorce can drag on for a long time – months or even years, in some cases – the court can award temporary maintenance to one spouse until the divorce is finalized. The lawyer has to make a separate motion for temporary support based on the factors listed above.

A temporary support order is entered “without prejudice” – meaning that just because Spouse A is paying $4,000 a month in temporary maintenance to Spouse B that they will be ordered to pay $4,000 a month when the divorce is final. The award could be higher, lower, or there may no longer be a need for any maintenance.

Can Spousal Support / Alimony be Modified?

Maintenance is sometimes modifiable if there has been a significant change in circumstances for one or both parties: for example, the payor spouse has become very ill or disabled and can’t work, or they have lost their job, or they have found a new job with a much better salary. The recipient spouse may have found a new job and no longer require financial support.

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