Determining Spousal Support in Your Divorce  Spousal support used to be called alimony. It’s sometimes referred to as maintenance or spousal support in Illinois. That means that after a divorce, the court orders one party or the other to send money to their ex-spouse. This has nothing to do with child support, but spousal support is just for the ex-spouse. People hate paying spousal support, and it’s almost never done voluntarily. But sometimes there’s a real need for spousal support. While it’s one of those things that’s rarely agreed on in a divorce situation, what you need to know is this.

There’s a two-pronged test when it comes to spousal support in the state of Illinois. The first thing that the judge or the parties, with the help of their attorneys, will need to agree upon is whether or not spousal support is even appropriate. A lot of time that comes down to the difference in incomes. If you have a spouse that’s making a six-figure salary and the other spouse is making minimum wage at a part-time job, you might be looking at a spousal support situation. On the other hand, if there is very little difference in income, spousal support might not be appropriate. But a disparity in income isn’t the only thing that will decide whether or not maintenance is appropriate. The court can consider a whole variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, the overall circumstances, the health, the needs of the parties, and so on, when deciding whether or not spousal support is appropriate.

Once it’s been determined that spousal support is appropriate, there are guidelines going into place, which are going to dictate exactly how much spousal support somebody gets. Up until the end of 2014 in Illinois, spousal support was very random. It was whatever the parties could agree on giving or getting or what a judge really randomly decided was appropriate. Sometimes you would have situations where one couple would get a certain amount, and maybe the judge across the hall would have given them a completely different amount. This led to a lot of problems in family law because spousal support was so unpredictable in terms of the dollar amount and how long spousal support would last.

New guidelines are going into place in order to determine exactly how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. 20% of the gross income of the person receiving spousal support is subtracted from 30% of the gross income of the person who’s paying spousal support. In Illinois, maintenance is usually paid monthly. So that dollar amount actually is the annual amount and gets divided out by 12 to determine the monthly amount. Although, there is a catch - the annual income cannot be more than 40% of the combined gross incomes. The gross income – that would be before taxes and other deductions – can’t exceed that 40% when it’s added to the gross income of the person that’s receiving the spousal support. This formula doesn’t apply if the combined gross income of the parties is more than $250,000 a year. These formulas can be very confusing, and it’s hard to determine without a lot of experience to know when maintenance is actually going to be awarded or not. And trying to apply the formula can be tricky. If you’re concerned about a maintenance situation, your best bet is to talk to an attorney who works in the divorce area, who can give you some idea as to whether or not you can expect maintenance to be a part of your case, and, if so, the amount that you might be facing.

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Injury & Accidents, Disability Insurance.