New Guidelines for Calculating Spousal Maintenance after Divorce

spousal maintenance, spousal support, Illinois Family Law AttorneyEnding a marriage, regardless of the reason, creates a variety of challenges for both partners as they move forward into the post-divorce period of their lives. In addition to finding a new place to live and other day-to-day concerns, spouses must often reestablish themselves as self-sufficient individuals, no longer reliant on the cooperation a marital partner. For many, the circumstances of the marriage and subsequent family life can make it difficult for one of the spouses to transition into self-sufficiency quickly. Spousal maintenance, or alimony, may be necessary to support a spouse in such a situation so as to reduce unnecessary hardship that may have resulted from the divorce.

New for 2015

Late last summer, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that addressed what many considered a glaring need regarding spousal maintenance awards. For many years, family and divorce courts in the state were granted full discretion over every aspect of spousal support orders, including when they were necessary, how much was to be paid and for how long. Individual judges ordered what he or she felt was appropriate for each case, resulting in very unpredictable awards, the details of which depending very heavily on which judge was assigned to the case.

The new law, which took effect January 1, 2015, established standardized calculation guidelines for the amount and duration of spousal maintenance awards. The courts, however, retained discretion over the appropriateness of such awards and the power to modify the calculations with cause based on the circumstances of an individual case.

Spousal Maintenance Amount

If an award for spousal support is deemed appropriate by the court, the amount to be paid must be calculated. The recommended amount is to be determined by subtracting 20 percent of the payee’s gross income from 30 percent of the payor’s gross income. The payee’s income plus the award amount is not permitted to exceed 40 percent of the spouses’ combined income.

For example, if a man, with an income of $100,000, and a woman, with an income of $50,000 were divorcing and spousal maintenance was found to be appropriate, calculating the recommended amount would be required. Subtracting 20 percent of $50,000, or $10,000, from 30 percent of $100,000, or $30,000, equals $20,000. Adding the award to the woman’s income totals $70,000, which is more than 40 percent of the couples combined $150,000 income. The award would be reduced to $10,000, to meet the 40 percent requirement.

Spousal Maintenance Duration

The law also specifies a standardized formula for calculating the expected amount of time a maintenance order should be in force. Intending to create relatively longer awards for longer marriages, the duration is found by multiplying the length of the marriage by a percentage designated in a weighted table in the law. Fixed-term awards and permanent awards are also possible in applicable situations at the court’s discretion.

After a marriage lasting 14 years, the duration of a spousal maintenance award would be found by multiplying 14 years by the specified factor, 60 percent in this example, equaling 8.4 years or about 101 months.

Your Case is Unique

Every divorce is as different as the individuals involved and the law recognizes the need for some flexibility. A court is permitted to enter an order that differs from the recommendations but only after finding it necessary based on many considerations including:

  • The needs, income, and assets of both spouses;
  • The standard of living created by the marriage and the marriage’s length;
  • The requirements and any obstacles involved for either spouse to become self-sufficient; and
  • Present and future earning capacities of both spouses, and any possible detriment to that of either party.

When considering divorce, balancing all of the necessary negotiations can be overwhelming. A qualified legal professional can help alleviate much of your stress and put you on the path toward financial independence. If you would like to pursue spousal maintenance as part of your divorce, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney at the Cosley Law Office today.

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