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Spousal Support Laws are Changing in Illinois

 Posted on December 01, 2014 in Divorce

DuPage county divorce attorney, spousal maintenance, spousal support laws, Illinois divorce, Illinois spousal maintenance, Illinois spousal maintenance guidelinesChanges in alimony laws are coming to Illinois and many believe they are long overdue. Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be new guidelines for calculating the amount and duration of spousal support orders, or spousal maintenance, as referred to in Illinois law.

Until now, a presiding judge had nearly unlimited discretion regarding how much and for how long maintenance was to be paid. The law listed a number of factors to which the court was expected to give consideration, but contained no quantitative guidelines or standards. The resulting orders, intentionally or otherwise, tended to reflect each judge's personal biases. Additionally, maintaining a level of consistency throughout the state became quite difficult.

Enacted this summer to begin in 2015, the new guidelines were passed as an amendment to the existing Illinois statute. The amended law still grants the court discretionary power, but now provides a standard calculation formula for determining the amount and length of a recommended support award.

Appropriateness of spousal maintenance remains up to the judge, based on consideration of a number of financial, personal, and situational factors. The court may also choose to deviate from the prescribed calculations, but specific justification for doing so must be entered as a finding.

Amount Calculation

Upon the determination that maintenance is appropriate, the law provides that the next step in the process is to calculate the recommended award amount. For most cases, the new guidelines set the amount as a function of the gross income of both parties, specifically: 30 percent of the payor's income minus 20 percent of the payee's income. The amount is capped such that when it is added to the payee's annual income, the total is not more than 40 percent of both parties' combined income.

For example, assume a payor husband grosses $150,000 and the payee wife grosses $50,000 annually. The award calculation would be: $45,000, or 30 percent of $150,000, minus $10,000, or 20 percent of $50,000, equaling $35,000. Adding the $35,000 to the wife's income gives her a total income of $85,000, which is 42.5 percent of the parties' combined income. Therefore, the law would reduce the award to $30,000 to be in compliance.

Award Duration

The amended law also provides a framework for establishing the anticipated length of the support order. The guideline is based on the length of the marriage multiplied by a value set in the statute:

  • 0.20 for marriages of less than 5 years;

  • 0.40 for marriages of 5-10 years;

  • 0.60 for marriages of 10-15 years;

  • 0.80 for marriages of 15-20 years; and

  • 1.00 (or permanent maintenance) for marriages of more than 20 years.

An eight year marriage, for example, would carry a maintenance award of about 39 months, which is 8 years multiplied by 0.4, or 3.2 years.

Fixed-Term Orders

For shorter marriages, the court is also granted the discretion to enter a "fixed-term" award. Once a fixed term award is completed, the termination is permanent and the amended law prohibits the payee from seeking an extension. A judge may opt for such an award to prevent extraneous litigation over a fairly short marriage.

Finding Representation

In any divorce or maintenance action, it is important to have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side. If you are considering divorce in Illinois, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney today for an evaluation of your case. We can help you through the process and will work with you to ensure your best interests are protected.

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