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Maintenance, Alimony & Spousal Support

HomeMaintenance, Alimony & Spousal Support

Spousal Maintenance, Support and Alimony Lawyer in Chicago

Maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is a payment from one spouse to another and is a complicated area of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.  If maintenance is appropriate, there are many forms it can take, including but not limited to reviewable, permanent, or non-modifiable.  Jennifer R. Ward, Esquire was selected to be on an exclusive panel in order to make a presentation on the topic of maintenance at the “Leaving a Long-Term Marriage” workshop produced by The Lilac Tree, an Evanston-based not-for-profit resource for women contemplating divorce.  Her knowledge on the topic, formal presentation, and speaking engagement in this arena translates into her daily practice at WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, and benefits her clients tremendously.

The maintenance laws in Illinois are summarized as follows:

(1) The court must first decide whether maintenance is appropriate in a given case, using factors listed in the Act, such as duration of the marriage, the standard of living, income, needs of the parties, etc. AND (2) Maintenance is determined for divorcing couples whose combined gross income is less than $500,000.

How Spousal Maintenance is Determined in Illinois

The final maintenance award for divorce is always broken down into two parts:

1. The amount of maintenance awarded, and;
2. The duration of time the maintenance will be awarded

Below, we will walk you through the steps of calculating both maintenance amount and duration (estimated).

Formula for Maintenance Award: DURATION

The duration of maintenance, or how long the maintenance is awarded for, is one major factor when determining an overall maintenance award.

To calculate duration, multiply the length of marriage (date of marriage to the date of the filing of the divorce case) with the corresponding multiplying factor below:

(Marriage <5 Years) x (0.20)
(Marriage 5 Years) x (0.24)
(Marriage 6 Years) x (0.28)
(Marriage 7 Years) x (0.32)
(Marriage 8 Years) x (0.36)
(Marriage 9 Years) x (0.40)
(Marriage 10 Years) x (0.44)
(Marriage 11 Years) x (0.48)
(Marriage 12 Years) x (0.52)
(Marriage 13 Years) x (0.56)
(Marriage 14 Years) x (0.60)
(Marriage 15 Years) x (0.64)
(Marriage 16 Years) x (0.68)
(Marriage 17 Years) x (0.72)
(Marriage 18 Years) x (0.76)
(Marriage 19 Years) x (0.80)
(Marriage 20 or more Years) = court shall determine the duration, or order an indefinite term of maintenance

Formula for Maintenance Award: AMOUNT

The amount of maintenance to be paid is the second major factor in determining an overall maintenance award. The actual, final amount will vary based on unique factors and circumstances of each individual case; however, the following formula can provide an approximate amount of maintenance.

(30% of the payer’s income) – (20% of the receiver’s income*)

*The receiver’s new income (income plus maintenance amount) cannot exceed 40% of the parties’ combined income

Two Different Scenarios For Spousal Maintenance/Alimony

EXAMPLE 1: Two-Income Household

For this example, we will calculate maintenance for a 15-year marriage where both spouses earn an income. We have:

Spouse A, whose annual income is $150,000, and;
Spouse B, whose annual income is $70,000.

Assuming the court determined that maintenance is appropriate under the circumstances and will be granted to Spouse B, the overall maintenance amount can be calculated as follows:

Calculation Of Maintenance Amount:

($150,000) x (30%) = $45,000 (Spouse A)
($70,000) x (20%) = $14,000 (Spouse B)
($45,000) – ($14,000) = $31,000

According to the calculation, Spouse B should be awarded maintenance in the amount of $31,000 per year. However, this would result in Spouse B’s new annual income exceeding 40% of the parties’ combined annual incomes ($150,000 + $70,000) x (40%) = $88,000 (40% of combined annual incomes)
($70,000 + $31,000) = $101,000 (Spouse B’s new annual income).

Since Spouse B’s new annual income exceeds 40% of the parties’ combined annual income, the court would likely modify the calculated maintenance amount to adhere to the 40% rule. In this example, Spouse B would most likely be granted around $18,000 in maintenance each year, resulting in Spouse B’s new annual income being $88,000 per year, within the 40% rule.

Calculation Of Maintenance Duration:

The parties were married for 15 years. This length of the marriage is then multiplied by the corresponding multiplying factor of 0.64 from the chart: 

(15 years of marriage) x (0.64) = 9.6 Years Duration

IN CONCLUSION: Spouse B should be awarded maintenance of approximately $18,000 per year, for a duration of 9.6 years.

EXAMPLE 2: Single Income Household

For this example, we will calculate maintenance for a 14-year marriage where only one spouse earns an income. We have:
Spouse A, whose annual income is $150,000, and;
Spouse B, who does not earn an income.

Assuming the court determined that maintenance is appropriate under the circumstances and will be granted to Spouse B, the overall maintenance amount can be calculated as follows:

Calculation of Maintenance Amount:

($150,000) x (30%) = $45,000 (Spouse A)
($0.00) x (20%) = $0.00 (Spouse B)
($45,000) – ($0.00) = $45,000

According to the calculation, Spouse B should be awarded maintenance in the amount of $45,000 per year. In this case, Spouse B’s new income ($45,000) does not exceed 40% of the parties’ combined income.

Calculation of Maintenance Duration:

The parties were married for 14 years. This length of the marriage is then multiplied by the corresponding multiplying factor of 0.60 from the chart. 

(14 Years of Marriage) x (0.64) = 8.96 Years Duration

IN CONCLUSION: Spouse B should be awarded maintenance of approximately $45,000 per year, for a duration of 8.96 years.

Additional Changes to Alimony and Maintenance

In summary, the Act also makes the following changes:

  • Judges may not order unallocated maintenance unless the parties agree to it;
  • Judges are authorized to permanently bar maintenance for marriages of 10 years or fewer; and
  • Judges must subtract maintenance payments from the payor’s income for purposes of calculating child support.
  • Judges may order that a life insurance policy on the payer spouse’s life be obtained to secure the payer’s maintenance obligation, in full or in part. The parties may agree to the terms of this life insurance policy (e.g. total amount of the death benefit coverage, length of time the policy must be maintained, who is responsible for payment of premiums, etc.). If the parties do not agree, the court may determine the terms, subject to certain guidelines set forth in Illinois law.

Please review the Act with attorney Jennifer R. Ward or Tania K. Harvey of counsel, at WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, for other details that may be relevant to your case in determining a maintenance award.

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