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Posted on in Spousal Maintenance

Illinois divorce lawyerIn many Illinois divorces, spousal support, also called maintenance, is granted to one spouse, usually the one in a lower income bracket. However, contrary to perceptions in popular culture, it does not last until death. There are multiple occasions when spousal support can legally end before the ex-spouse’s passing, and if you or your spouse may be in one of these situations, it can save you time and money in the future.

Types of Maintenance

In determining what type of maintenance should be awarded (if any), the court will examine a laundry list of factors, intended to accurately assess the needs of the spouse with less capital against the potential cost to the spouse with more assets. Some of these factors include the present and future earning capacity of both spouses, the length of the marriage and the standard of living established during that time, and any previous agreement made by the spouses, such as a prenuptial agreement, that might affect any part of marital asset division. The cessation of spousal support payments depends mostly on the type granted, as depending on which type is awarded, sometimes support may end on its own.


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?


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:


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.


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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