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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700

spousal maintenance, spousal support, Oakbrook Divorce AttorneysLast 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?

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spousal maintenanceMany women in the workforce today have vastly different perspectives about their role in the family than their mothers and grandmothers had. This is because of society's changing expectations for women and their careers. In prior generations, most married women worked part-time, if at all, while raising children and managing the household. But since the rise of second wave feminism in the 1970s, more and more women seek higher education and full-time careers. In some families, wives earn more money than their husbands and shoulder the majority of the responsibility of supporting the household.

When the traditional structure of male breadwinner/female homemaker is inverted, questions about spousal maintenance can arise if the couple decides to file for divorce. Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, was created to give the lesser-earning spouse a financial safety net following their divorce. This was almost always the wife, who sacrificed her career by taking less time-consuming positions or opting out of the workforce altogether to devote herself to raising the couple's children. Today, with many husbands taking on this role instead, some are opting to ask for spousal maintenance payments from their former wives during the divorce process.

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

A number of factors come into play when the court decides an appropriate amount of spousal support to award to an individual. The statutes that govern this process are contained in Section V of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Every couple's circumstances are unique, and there is no uniform spousal maintenance package that can fit every family. The following factors are taken into consideration during this process:

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permanent alimony disabled spouseMany U.S. households depend primarily or exclusively on one partner's earnings to meet their financial needs. This commonly occurs in households where one spouse assumes a full-time child care role, or if one spouse is unable to work because of a disability. In cases of these single-earnings households, what happens to the lower or no earning partner after divorce?

Temporary vs. Permanent Alimony

When one spouse voluntarily withdraws from the workforce for child care or other reasons, the higher-earning spouse may agree to provide temporary financial assistance, called alimony or spousal support, until the lower earning spouse is able to secure more lucrative employment. Such terms may be designated in a divorce settlement or an order made by a family law judge following divorce litigation. Terms of an alimony award may include health insurance premiums, a monthly payment to meet living expenses, and a financial contribution towards employment-related training.

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illinois divorce alimony lawyerGoing through a divorce can be an extremely stressful time and may have a substantial impact on almost every aspect of your life. This is particularly true if your spouse made significantly more money than you do, or the other way around. In certain situations, people who are married agree to forgo education or career opportunities in order to support their partner or manage the household, while the other person pursues educational or financial goals.

Recognizing that a married couple often operates as a cohesive unit, Illinois law allows for former spouses to request alimony, also known as "maintenance," in order to provide for their financial needs should their marriage come to an end. In situations where spousal maintenance is contested or is at issue, the assistance of an experienced family law attorney can be extremely helpful in ensuring that your case comes to a successful resolution.

How Do Courts Determine Maintenance?

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All couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have a Trust or Living Will to protect their assets as well as make sure that their estates are executed as they wanted them to be. Illinois state law does recognize gay couples as a civil union, meaning that they are entitled to the rights of marriage. A simple will may not be enough to protect your partner at the time of your passing. A will or trust must be made if you wish for your partner to have the rights to your estate; otherwise, they have none according to the law.

A living trust helps your partner at your time of death. If you only have a Last Will and Testament, your biological family can contest it. A trust is very hard to dispute. The type of trust that a same sex couple needs is called a Living Trust. These are rarely successfully contested in courts. A Living Revocable Trust is another option for same sex couples. A trust takes effect immediately after it is signed, there is no waiting period. The person named in your trust becomes your Trustee, and carries out your wishes while managing the Trust in the event of your passing, becoming disabled or severely ill.

A Last Will and Testament does not take effect until after you have passed away. A Trust, taking effect immediately, states that your life partner will take control of things if you are unable to due to severe injury, disability, severe illness or your death. You are putting your trust into your partner to handle all aspects of your estate including the home, bank accounts, vehicles, possessions and any other financial aspects of your life. The Living Trust makes it very simple to transfer you assets to your partner at the time of your death, alleviating the need for a messy probate court process.

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