Last year Illinois enacted a new law to simplify the process of calculating spousal maintenance payments, sometimes known as alimony. Previously, the law did not provide courts with standardized guidelines for determining a party’s maintenance obligations. That meant, under the old approach, courts considered maintenance on a case-by-case basis with inconsistent results. The new calculation is a two-step process, whereby the court:
- Subtracts 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s income from 30 percent of the payor’s income to find the amount of maintenance to be paid; and
- Calculates the length of the maintenance award based on the duration of the marriage.
This relatively simple mathematical process reduces much of the uncertainty associated with alimony.
Step One: Are You Entitled to Maintenance?
First, the court must decide if one spouse is entitled to receive spousal maintenance after the divorce. The court is required to consider a number of factors, such as:
- Each spouse’s income, including marital and non-marital property distributed during the divorce proceeding;
- Each spouse’s present and future earning capacity;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- Whether the spouse seeking maintenance put domestic duties before his or her own education and employment opportunities; and
- Each spouse’s age, physical health and emotional health.
Step Two: What Is the Annual Payment?
Once the court determines that a spouse is entitled to maintenance, the court must calculate how much maintenance is to be paid. For example, if one spouse is an attorney earning $120,000 per year, and the other spouse is a teacher earning $40,000 per year, the court will subtract 20 percent of $40,000 ($8,000) from 30 percent of $120,000 ($36,000) for a payment amount of $28,000. The law stipulates, however, that the recipient’s income plus maintenance cannot exceed 40 percent of the spouses’ collective income. In this case, 40 percent of the combined income is $64,000, which means that the recipient exceeds the threshold by $4,000. Thus, the payments will likely be capped at $24,000.
It is important to that the court is granted discretion to deviate from this formula in special circumstances.
Step Three: For How Many Years Is Maintenance Owed?
Finally, the court will set a payment calendar. In other words, the court will notify the paying spouse how long he or she is required to provide spousal maintenance. The court calculates the duration of maintenance payments by multiplying the number of years married by the designated factor:
- Of 0.20 for marriages up to five years;
- Of 0.40 for marriages between five and 10 years;
- Of 0.60 for marriages between 10 and 15 years; or
- Of 0.80 for marriages between 15 and 20 years.
For example, if a couple had been married for 11 years, the maintenance order would be established for approximately six and a half years. Courts also have discretion to order permanent maintenance or maintenance equal to the number of years married if the marriage lasted more than 20 years.
If you are going through a divorce, and believe you should be eligible for spousal maintenance, our qualified team can help you receive the correct amount provided by law. Contact an experienced divorce attorney in DuPage County today for a consultation.