What is Maintenance?
The phrases spousal support, alimony, and spousal maintenance are used fairly interchangeably to describe when a court orders one spouse to pay the other. These terms arise during a divorce, when one spouse needs financial assistance to keep them at the same or comparable standard of living they had during the marriage.
In the past, women were more likely to receive maintenance after divorce because men were usually earning the main household income while women stayed home to raise children. Many women sacrificed their own education and career goals in favor of focusing on their husband’s education and career needs. Consequently, when these marriages ended, women were left at a huge disadvantage by not only lacking immediate income, but also by lacking earned income potential. As society has changed and more women have gone into the workplace, we are seeing a more even distribution of maintenance payments across genders.
There is no requirement that maintenance be awarded in every case. A judge can deny any request for maintenance. It can be granted on a temporary or permanent basis and there are a variety of factors that go into deciding the appropriate amount paid based on a case-by-case determination. It can be paid out in installments or lump sum payments, and can be modified by the court if circumstances change. Property ownership, life insurance policies, and other benefits accrued during the marriage may also factor in as part of the equation.
Some parties work with their attorneys to decide a mutually agreed upon payment plan without having to involve the courts in the process. However, more often than not, the court intervenes to help set up an appropriate payment amount and length of time for maintenance.
How is the Amount Calculated by an Illinois Court?
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, if the spouses cannot agree on an amount and payment schedule, the judge can decide what is the appropriate amount on a case-by-case basis. The list of factors the judge considers under Illinois law include such things as the income and needs of each party, the earning capacities of both, the duration of the marriage, and other factors that the court sees as just and equitable.
Types of Maintenance
Maintenance can be temporary, long-term, or even permanent in Illinois. Temporary maintenance is often called periodic maintenance, and can be awarded even before the divorce is final. It is meant as a short-term measure and can be awarded as needed.
Permanent alimony or permanent maintenance is given by one spouse to the other for the rest of their life, or until the spouse dies. Permanent maintenance is actually a misnomer because in many cases if a “terminating event” occurs, such as the death of the spouse, the maintenance payments end.
Many of the critics of permanent maintenance see it as an abuse of the system where a reasonably healthy person can continue to receive payments by the previous spouse without needing to provide for themselves.
Seek Legal Help in Illinois
Divorce can be a difficult process for all parties involved. The financial consequences of divorce can be both overwhelming and confusing at best. If you need assistance with any family matter, do not hesitate to contact the adept Illinois family law attorneys at Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina, P.C. to answer all of the legal questions you have.