The Divorcerer Speaks: Legal Trend in Illinois Maintenance Laws, also known as Alimony and Spousal Support

Alimony.  Spousal Support.  Maintenance.  These terms are thrown around, often times, with very little understanding about the laws, applicability to each case and overall interpretation.  Being that the laws changed in this regard in Illinois, here is a summary of the maintenance law changes, whether it is appropriate in a given case, the general “formula” to consider and an example of basic calculating.

The court must first decide whether maintenance is appropriate in a given case, using factors listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, such as duration of marriage, standard of living, income, needs of the parties, other factors and maintenance is determined for divorcing couples whose combined gross income is less than $250,000.

A Judge is not required to use the formula but must make a finding explaining why they did not.

The new maintenance formula under the Act provides that a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income, less 20 percent of the payee’s gross income, and the result must not be greater than 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the payee’s gross income.  Sounds confusing, right?

Here is an example to help understand how it works:

Spouses were married for 10 years and have a combined gross income of $160,000


1st Step – Basic maintenance calculation

Spouse A grosses $100,000 per year. Spouse B grosses $60,000 per year.

Spouse A’s calculation: $100,000 x 30% = $30,000

Spouse B’s calculation: $60,000 x 20% = $12,000

Spouse A’s annual maintenance to Spouse B: $30,000 – $12,000 = $18,000


2nd Step – Calculation for 40% combined gross cap on maintenance

$100,000 + $60,000 = $160,000

$160,000 x 40% = $64,000

$64,000 – $60,000 = $4,000

Spouse A’s annual maintenance is capped at $4,000, rather than the original $18,000 calculation.

The cap helps to reduce the maintenance burden when spouses’ incomes are more similar but has less impact the greater the payor’s income is in relation to the payee’s.


3rd Step – Calculation for duration of maintenance

0 – 5 years = 20%

5 – 10 years = 40%

10 – 15 years = 60%

15 – 20 years = 80%

20 or more years = the court has discretion to order either permanent maintenance or maintenance equal to the length of the marriage.

If the above example marriage lasted 10 years, using this chart, the maintenance award would continue for 40% of the marriage span (i.e. 4 years).

The Act also made some other changes, including that the Judge may not order unallocated maintenance unless the parties agree to it, the Judge is authorized to permanently bar maintenance for marriages of 10 years or fewer and the Judge must subtract maintenance payments from the payor’s income for purposes of calculating child support.

Always consult with an attorney and review the specific facts of your case with him or her to determine how the maintenances laws may, or may not, apply to you.