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Wheaton Divorce AttorneyDivorce can have a massive financial impact on both parties. Many divorcing spouses worry about how they will pay their bills without their spouse’s financial support. Alimony, called spousal maintenance in Illinois law, provides an opportunity for financial relief. However, spousal maintenance is only available in certain situations. If you are getting divorced and you or your spouse is interested in pursuing spousal maintenance, an experienced family law attorney can give you advice customized to your circumstances.

Spousal Maintenance Entitlement

Spousal maintenance recipients have traditionally been women, however, Illinois spousal maintenance law makes no distinction between men and women. A spouse may qualify for spousal maintenance if:

  • The spouses signed an agreement such as a prenuptial agreement that determines spousal maintenance arrangements.

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Wheaton IL divorce attorneyA divorce is a long process and may involve several complexities, including alimony. If you have been the primary breadwinner in your marriage, a judge may order you to pay your former spouse alimony if you get a divorce. Also known as spousal support or maintenance, alimony is typically paid on a monthly basis and intended to support an ex-spouse financially after a marriage has ended.

How Spousal Support Is Calculated in Illinois

In Illinois, spousal support is only part of a divorce resolution if the spouses agree to it, or if the court determines that it is warranted based on each spouse’s situation. Factors that the court will consider include each spouse’s needs, income and assets, and earning capacity now and in the future. If the court decides to order spousal support, there is a standard calculation that is typically used to determine the amount.

If a divorcing couple’s combined income is less than $500,000, a judge will use statutory guidelines to figure out how much and how long maintenance must be paid. In Illinois, spousal support is calculated by taking 33.3 percent of the paying spouse’s net income and then subtracting 25 percent of the receiving spouse’s net income. For instance, if you make $6,000 a month while your ex earns $1,000, you could be ordered to pay $1,750 per month in alimony.

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DuPage County Spousal Maintenance LawyerSpousal maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support or alimony, is not a part of every divorce in Illinois. However, it may be awarded upon the court’s determination that it is warranted to provide for a spouse’s financial needs, or based on an agreement between spouses, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or a divorce settlement. Maintenance orders typically do not specify what the recipient must use the payments for, but if you are fortunate enough to be granted maintenance in your divorce, it is a good idea to think carefully about how best to use the funds.

How Can Spousal Support Help?

For budgeting purposes, you can think of spousal support similarly to any other source of income, with the added benefit that as of 2019, it is no longer taxable for the recipient. However, support payments usually come with a definitive end date, so it is important to use them to your advantage while they last. Here are some possible uses of maintenance that you may find beneficial:

  • Paying for basic living expenses. First and foremost, you should ensure that you have the resources available to provide for your own basic needs, including food, clothing, housing, transportation, and utilities. If you are staying in the marital home after your divorce, maintenance could also help you pay the mortgage and other house-related expenses.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIn an Illinois divorce, spousal support may be ordered when one party has a financial need or limited means of providing for oneself. However, these spousal maintenance payments usually are ordered for a fixed duration, after which the receiving party will be expected to support him or herself without the assistance of the former spouse.

Under normal circumstances, it may be possible for the receiving spouse to attain financial independence before support payments end, but the economic stresses and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have made this much more difficult for many people, especially now that they have lasted for nearly a year. If your spousal maintenance order is set to terminate soon and you are concerned about your ability to support yourself, you may be able to petition for a modification that extends the duration of payments.

How Does Illinois Determine the Duration of Maintenance Payments?

Usually, if the court decides that spousal maintenance is necessary, it will order payments for a duration based on a calculation involving the length of the marriage. After a marriage of less than five years, maintenance will likely be ordered for less than one year, and usually only in the case of a marriage of 20 years or more will the court order spousal support for the full length of the marriage or an indefinite time period. However, the court will sometimes vary from these calculations if there is good reason. If you are in the process of a divorce and you are struggling financially, your attorney may be able to help you make the case for larger payments or a longer duration.

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Wheaton spousal support modification attorneyAlimony and other terms for the same concept, including spousal support and spousal maintenance, may commonly come to mind when you think about divorce, but the reality is that these payments are becoming less and less common. In Illinois, spousal support is usually only ordered when there is a significant imbalance between the two party’s incomes and assets and one of the parties needs it to remain financially stable and maintain their accustomed standard of living.

Even then, maintenance generally does not last forever but is instead ordered for a specific duration based on the length of the marriage, with the idea often being that the receiving spouse will use that time to attempt to become financially independent. Additionally, as the paying spouse, you may be able to petition for the modification or early termination of spousal support payments under certain circumstances.

Grounds for Updating a Spousal Support Order

In order to reduce or eliminate your spousal support payment obligation, you will usually need to demonstrate to the court that one of the following has occurred:

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