Alimony in Illinois may be necessary for a financially dependent spouse going through a divorce or legal separation. However, alimony isn’t guaranteed, and requesting spouses have to meet specific criteria of eligibility. In this article, we discuss the factors considered in giving alimony awards and how support may be terminated.
How To Calculate Alimony in Illinois
The court will consider whether the spouse from whom maintenance is being sought has maintenance or child support obligations from a prior marriage. If that spouse has no such obligation, the court will go ahead and establish the combined gross annual income of both spouses.
Under this formula, it is assumed that the combined gross annual income of the spouses is below $500,000. The amount of alimony is determined by subtracting one quarter (25 percent) of the requesting spouse’s net yearly income from 33 1/3 percent of the obligor’s net yearly income.
The requesting spouse’s net yearly income added to the spousal maintenance award should not exceed 40 percent of the spouses’ combined net yearly income. To get a better understanding of how Illinois spousal support payments are calculated, let’s consider the example below.
In one scenario, one spouse’s annual income could be $240,000, and $40,000 for the other spouse. 33 1/3 percent of $240,000 is $80,000, and 25 percent of $40,000 is $10,000. Subtracting $10,000 from $80,000 gives you $70,000. Given that spousal support payments are mostly made every month, the supporting spouse would be obliged to pay $5,833.33 in alimony.
In another instance, one spouse could have an income of $120,000, and $60,000 for the other. 33 1/3 percent of $120,000 is $40,000, and 25 percent of $60,000 is $15,000. Subtracting $15,000 from $40,000 yields $25,000. Yet, 40 percent of the total income of the spouses is $72,000. It follows that the amount of alimony the lower-earning spouse can receive per year would be capped at $12,000, or $1,000 per month.
For couples with a combined gross yearly income of more than $500,000, a judge will study and consider all the relevant factors to establish the amount of support to award. The decision depends on the circumstances of the spouses’ unique situation.
Spousal maintenance is only awarded if the court finds it appropriate after considering the factors above. Otherwise, it shall bar support to the requesting party regardless of the length of the marriage. To determine the amount and duration of alimony, Illinois courts follow a guideline provided under Illinois alimony laws.
– Duration of Spousal Maintenance in Illinois
The length of the marriage of the spouses is the single most important factor in the determination of the duration of maintenance payments. The duration of support is determined by multiplying the duration of marriage by the applicable factors as follows:
- Below five years: 0.20
- Five or more but less than six: 0.24
- Six or more but less than seven: 0.28
- Seven or more but less than eight: 0.32
- Eight or more but less than nine: 0.36
- Nine or more but less than 10: 0.40
- 10 or more but less than 11: 0.44
- 11 or more but less than 12: 0.48
- 12 or more but less than 13: 0.52
- 13 or more but less than 14: 0.56
- 14 or more but less than 15: 0.60
- 15 or more but less than 16: 0.64
- 16 or more but less than 17: 0.68
- 17 or more but less than 18: 0.72
- 18 or more but less than 19: 0.76
- 19 or more but less than 20: 0.80
For spouses who have been married for 20 years and above, the court shall order maintenance for a period proportional to their marriage duration or an unspecified term.
– Entitlement to Spousal Maintenance
In a proceeding for divorce, legal separation, or dissolution of a civil union, the court may grant a support award for either spouse. Such an award is usually in amounts and durations that the court deems just.
Before granting an award, the court must first establish whether a maintenance award is appropriate by considering all of the following relevant factors:
- Each spouse’s earnings and possessions, including marital property distributed and non-marital property assigned to the requesting spouse
- All the financial obligations imposed on the spouses as a result of divorce or legal separation
- The financial needs of each spouse
- The realistic present and future earning capacity of each spouse
- Any impairment (or the extent) of the requesting spouse’s present and future earning capacity due to devotion to homemaking duties or having delayed or forgone education, training, career opportunities, or employment due to the marriage
- The time necessary for the requesting spouse to acquire an education or appropriate training and employment
- Whether the requesting spouse can support themselves through employment
- Parental responsibility arrangements that may affect the requesting spouse’s ability to seek out or maintain employment
- The standard of living established by the spouses during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, health, occupation, sources of income, liabilities, employability, and vocational skills of each spouse
- All sources of public and private income, including but not limited to disability and retirement income
- Tax consequences to each spouse
- Contributions by the requesting spouse to the education, training, license, or career advancement of the other spouse
- Any valid written or oral agreement of the spouses
- Any other factor the court expressly deems just and equitable
How To Pay Alimony in Illinois
Going by the spouses’ specific circumstances, the court may order any of the available types of alimony in Illinois. These include:
– Temporary Spousal Support
Illinois alimony rules permit a financially dependent spouse to request temporary spousal support while the divorce case is pending. Temporary alimony may be ordered to help the requesting spouse maintain their financial status quo during the pendency of a divorce.
Before granting an award for this type of divorce maintenance in Illinois, the judge will evaluate the income of each spouse. The judge also considers whether the higher-earning spouse is obligated to pay child support and whether the requesting spouse needs financial assistance.
If awarded, the obligation to pay temporary alimony terminates when the judge issues a new order after finalizing the divorce.
– Rehabilitative Spousal Support
The final support order in a divorce case may include rehabilitative alimony, which can be awarded for a short or long-term period. Rehabilitative maintenance can also be awarded for an indefinite period with a possibility of a review.
This type of Illinois divorce maintenance gives the requesting spouse the financial support they need while getting an education or skills to attain financial independence after the divorce.
By awarding rehabilitative spousal support, the court expects the requesting spouse to make good faith efforts to get a job and become self-supporting. Payment of rehabilitative spousal support stops when the fixed payment term ends or when the court establishes that the recipient spouse has become self-supporting through employment.
– Permanent Spousal Support
In rare cases, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to support the other spouse permanently. This type of Illinois spousal maintenance is reserved for spouses who are permanently unable to support themselves through employment due to advanced age, illness, or disability.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Illinois
Under Illinois alimony laws, a change in circumstances can warrant the modification or termination of spousal support. By demonstrating that one or more grounds for termination of alimony exist, a court may end payment of support.
In addition to the death of either spouse, these two grounds may warrant the termination of alimony:
When the recipient spouse starts to live with another non-relative person in a conjugal relationship, the court will terminate the obligation to pay alimony. The obligor will need to file a motion and prove cohabitation to stop making support payments.
The court will look into the following considerations to determine whether two people are cohabiting or simply in a “dating” relationship:
- The length of their relationship
- The amount of time the couple spends together and the activities they engage in
- Whether their personal affairs interrelate, for instance, whether they hold any joint accounts or own any property together
- Whether they vacation or spend holidays together
Just because the recipient spouse is not having a conjugal relationship with another person doesn’t necessarily mean it is not cohabitation. Also, not being legally married does not prevent the court from considering the relationship of two people as cohabitation.
In the case of cohabitation, the supporting spouse’s obligation to pay maintenance ends the day the recipient spouse begins a continuing cohabitation, even if the supporting spouse doesn’t file the motion to end the obligation to pay. As such, the court may order a reimbursement back to when the cohabitation started.
When the supported spouse enters into another marriage, the court will terminate the alimony order. However, this won’t be the case if the terms in the divorce agreement stated otherwise. The supporting spouse stops making maintenance payments as of the date the recipient spouse remarries, and he/she doesn’t have to go to court to seek termination of alimony.
The recipient spouse has to notify the supporting spouse within 72 hours of remarriage or at least 30 days before the date of remarriage. If payments are made after the wedding date, the supporting spouse is entitled to reimbursement. Similarly, the obligor has to pay any alimony amounts due for payment as of the remarriage date.
If the court-ordered alimony is in the form of property transfer or a lump-sum payment, the obligor must still complete the transfer or payment, even if the recipient spouse has remarried.
Alimony obligation does not automatically terminate when the paying spouse remarries. However, the court may consider it a change in circumstances if the spouse is supporting a new family and could warrant modification of alimony.
– Modification of Alimony Order in Illinois
The court that issued the alimony order can modify spousal maintenance if the petitioning spouse can prove that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances since the last order.
To demonstrate a change in circumstances, the petitioning spouse may present evidence of any of the following:
- A change in the employment status of either spouse
- Lack of effort from the supported spouse to become financially independent
- Impairment to either spouse’s earning capacity due to illness, disability, or any other valid reason
- Tax consequences of the support payments upon the spouses’ economic circumstances
- An increase or decrease in either spouse’s income
- Property divided during the divorce, including retirement benefits
- Property acquired by either spouse after the finalization of divorce by the court
- Any other factor deemed just and equitable by the court
Purpose of Alimony in Illinois
An award for alimony is not intended to punish one spouse or enrich the other – it helps the lower-earning spouse meet their reasonable expenses during and after divorce. Alimony is intended to help such spouses as they transition out of marriage.
Alimony enables such spouses to get an education or the training necessary to get a job and become self-supporting. In some cases, maintenance is paid to spouses who cannot support themselves through employment due to a long-term marriage, illness, or disability.
This article has discussed the various aspects of alimony in Illinois. Below is a recap to help you recall the main points:
- Legal separation or divorce in Illinois doesn’t always guarantee an alimony award
- Alimony can be agreed upon by spouses or ordered by the court
- To determine entitlement to spousal support, courts will consider the relevant factors as provided by Illinois alimony laws
- In Illinois, there are set guidelines on how to determine the amount and duration of spousal support
- A substantial change of circumstances could justify the modification or termination of an alimony order
Illinois spouses who need financial support can request the court to order alimony in the event of divorce or legal separation. If granted, the maintenance should support such spouses as they work towards becoming financially independent.
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