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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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Wheaton divorce attorneysWhen you get a divorce in Illinois, you can expect the court to ensure a fair distribution of marital property. However, you may have additional concerns about your ability to support yourself financially after your divorce, in which case you should explore the possible option of spousal maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony. Spousal maintenance is not a required part of every Illinois divorce resolution, but it may be awarded in cases of need.

Am I Entitled to Spousal Support in Illinois?

If you and your spouse are willing to cooperate throughout the divorce process, you may be able to negotiate for the spousal support that you need as one piece of a larger divorce agreement. For example, your spouse may be more open to paying spousal support if he or she is able to retain important property as part of the division of assets. If negotiation is not possible, you can also pursue spousal maintenance by demonstrating your need to the court.

Illinois courts consider a variety of factors when determining whether spousal maintenance should be awarded. Some situations in which you may have a case for support include:

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Wheaton alimony lawyersSpousal support may not be awarded as often as it once was, it is still a factor in some cases. Think you might be entitled? Check out these 14 factors the courts use to decide whether or not to award alimony to a disadvantaged party and learn more about what our divorce lawyers can do to improve the outcome in your Illinois divorce case. 

1. Income and Assets of Each Party


Each party's income and assets are one of the first and biggest factors used to determine whether spousal support should be awarded in a divorce case. The courts will consider both marital and non-marital assets, as well as each party’s financial obligations. 

2. Financial Needs of Each Party

Another important factor the courts use to determine whether alimony should be awarded is the financial needs of each party. Three key components are used in this determination: the financial needs of the recipient, whether there is a gap in the recipient’s ability to meet their needs, and whether the payor is capable of supplementing that gap. Note that these needs must be legitimate; wants and luxuries are not considered. 

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Wheaton alimony attorneysAt the start of 2019, the federal government eliminated the 70-year-old tax deduction associated with alimony payments. For receiving spouses, it may seem beneficial to no longer have to claim alimony payments as income, but the change actually leaves less money for the entire family. That is because paying spouses, who remain at the same tax bracket, may need to decrease their support amount to balance out their financial obligations. Thankfully, there are some alternative strategies that families can use to preserve their wealth after a divorce. 

Trading Alimony Payments for a Transference of Retirement Funds 

Depending on the ages of the divorcing parties, a transference of retirement funds may be preferable to alimony payments. In this option, the paying spouse makes a tax-free exchange of money by directing some of their retirement funds to the lower-earning spouse. The receiving spouse may also withdraw from the amount without tax penalty, so long as they are age 59.5 or older. If the receiving party has not yet surpassed the age threshold, divorcing parties may want to consider another alternative, as the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty may outweigh any potential benefits for the family unit. 

Using a Trust Account in Lieu of Alimony Payments 

Another potentially viable alternative to alimony payments is the use of a trust account. The most commonly used versions are the CRT (charitable remainder trust), QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Trust), ILIT (Life Insurance Trust), and Alimony Trusts. 

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