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Spousal Support Not Automatic in Divorce

Posted on in Spousal Maintenance

spousal support, Arlington Heights divorce lawyerFor many years, spousal support, or alimony, was a generally accepted part of the divorce process. When a couple decided to end their marriage, one spouse—usually the wife, statistically speaking—would be a severe financial disadvantage due to roles and responsibilities she assumed regarding the family. In most cases, the wife would also be granted primary responsibility for the couple’s children, meaning that it was even more difficult for her to obtain sufficient employment to support herself and her family. As such, the other spouse—usually the husband—would often be required to make spousal support payments, helping to ease the other party’s financial burden and making the end result of the divorce more equitable.

Changing Society, Changing Expectations

Over the last four decades or so, it has become increasingly more difficult for families to rely on a single income. This shift has been accompanied by a dramatic evolution of our cultural expectations for spouses in a marriage. Today, gender is much less of a factor for most families when determining household and family responsibilities. As times have changed, so has the state’s approach to granting spousal support or maintenance, as it is known in the law.

Currently, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides guidelines for deciding if maintenance is appropriate or not, but makes no guarantees. Spousal support is not automatic under the law, unless the divorcing couple has previously executed a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement stipulating that it should be. If left up to the court to decide, maintenance will only be ordered after careful consideration of the couple’s circumstances.

Circumstantial Factors

When deciding whether or not to award maintenance, the court is required to take into account:

  • Each spouse’s income, assets, and resources, including each party’s share of the marital estate;
  • Each spouse’s needs;
  • The realistic earning potential of each spouse and any impairment to earning potential;
  • How long it will take the underprivileged spouse to gain sufficient training or employment;
  • The length of the marriage and the lifestyle established;
  • The contributions of each spouse to the other’s career;
  • The age, health, and employability of each spouse;
  • Arrangements being made for the couple’s children; and
  • Any other factors found to be relevant.

If spousal support is determined to be needed, the law provides formulas for calculating the amount that should be paid and for how long payments should continue. The court retains the discretion to deviate from the statutory formulas when justified by the specific circumstances of the case in question.

Professional Legal Advice

If you are considering a divorce and have questions about spousal support in Illinois, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney. Call 847-253-3100 to schedule a free consultation at Cosley Law Office today.



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