Clarification on Illinois spousal maintenance

Feb 2, 2016 | Maintenance (Alimony)

Over the past few months, our firm has discussed recent transformations within Illinois family law. Most changes went into effect at the beginning of 2016. Much to our liking, one legal amendment has helped elucidate spousal maintenance formulas in terms of calculating the amount and duration of support payments pursuant to a divorce.

Any Illinois family law attorney will tell you that maintenance awards have been subject to several inconsistencies over the past few years. This has lead to varying spousal support rulings among similarly situated couples. The lack of clarity has made it very hard for individuals and their attorneys to anticipate and prepare for support orders that dictate divorcing couples’ payment responsibilities.

Fortunately, the recent modifications to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provide comprehensible guidelines for judges assessing support calculations for divorcing couples.

How to calculate spousal maintenance

The revised guidelines apply only where the parties have a combined gross income of less than $250,000 and multiple family situations do not exist. For these couples, the maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income, less 20 percent of the recipient’s gross income.

However, regardless of the calculation amount, the resulting award cannot be greater than 40 percent of the former couples’ combined gross income, when combined with the payee’s gross income. The greater the payor’s income is in relation to the payee’s, the less likely the 40-percent rule is to limit the recipient’s award.

How to calculate the duration of spousal maintenance

The spousal maintenance payment obligation in Illinois is based on the duration of a couple’s marriage. A judge must use the following formula to determine how long the duty to pay will last:

  • Married zero to five years: 20 percent of the marriage.
  • Married five to 10 years: 40 percent of the marriage.
  • Married 10 to 15 years: 60 percent of the marriage.
  • Married 15 to 20 years: 80 percent of the marriage.
  • Twenty or more years: The court has the discretion to order permanent maintenance or maintenance equivalent to the length of the marriage.

For example, under this standard, a five-year marriage would result in a one-year payment obligation. On the other hand, a decade-long marriage would result in four years of maintenance.

Deviations from the formula

A judge is not required to follow the new guidelines; however, any deviations from the standard calculations require a detailed explanation.

Our firm hopes that the new guidelines will eliminate any uncertainty in terms of predicting and assessing the amount and duration of spousal maintenance in Illinois. The result: confident legal counseling, and in turn, happier clients. To find out about the law, speak with a local family law attorney.