What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as maintenance or spousal support, is usually awarded in a divorce when one spouse has been financially dependent on the other during the marriage. These payments are intended to protect the dependent spouse from financial hardship and allow both spouses to maintain a comparable standard of living to what they experienced during the marriage.
When is alimony awarded?
Spousal support in Illinois is generally awarded when one spouse is financially dependent on the other, especially when the dependent spouse has lost earning potential because of years of homemaking or childcare responsibilities. The court considers the number of factors to determine how long the payments should last, but the two major ones are the length of the marriage and the dependent spouse’s employment prospects.
How are maintenance payments determined?
To determine the amount and time of alimony in Illinois, courts use formulas to establish a usual standard, which can then be adjusted as needed based on individual circumstances. The length of time is based on a percentage of the years of marriage, with the percentage increasing along with the length of time. The rate starts at 20% for less than five years of marriage and goes up to 80% for 19 years of marriage. Following a shorter marriage, the dependent spouse is usually expected to work toward becoming financially independent while receiving spousal support.
For marriages of 20 years or longer, payments can be set for the full length of the marriage or for an indefinite term. Indefinite maintenance terms can also be granted when the dependent spouse has foregone education and career opportunities to take care of the home and children and therefore has minimal realistic career prospects. Otherwise, courts usually award maintenance for a fixed period.
While the formula provides a starting point, the court will also consider the couple’s overall financial situation, including assets, financial obligations, realistic earning potential, and whether there was a prenuptial agreement in place.
Can maintenance payments change?
When there is a substantial change in either the supporting spouse’s ability to pay or the dependent spouse’s financial needs, courts can modify the amount of maintenance paid. Alimony payments can also be reduced if a dependent spouse expected to be working toward financial independence is not doing so.
What could end maintenance payments prematurely?
The maintenance obligation ends if the dependent spouse remarries or begins a serious, cohabiting relationship, or if either party dies. The supporting spouse’s estate does not need to continue paying maintenance. Maintenance payments are individualized, so the best way to get a realistic prediction of what you can expect is by discussing your situation with a qualified divorce lawyer. Schedule a consultation with STG Divorce Law to start planning the next chapter of your life.