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, as of January, 2015, 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 marriage, standard of living, income, needs of the parties, etc. AND (2) 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.
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).
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.
An award ordered by a court may be reasonably secured, in whole or in part, by life insurance on the payor’s life on terms as to which the parties agree, or, if they do not agree, on such terms determined by the court, subject to the following:
(1) With respect to existing life insurance, provided the court is apprised through evidence, stipulation, or otherwise as to level of death benefits, premium, and other relevant data and makes findings relative thereto, the court may allocate death benefits, the right to assign death benefits, or the obligation for future premium payments between the parties as it deems just.
(2) To the extent the court determines that its award should be secured, in whole or in part, by new life insurance on the payor’s life, the court may only order: (i) that the payor cooperate on all appropriate steps for the payee to obtain such new life insurance; and (ii) that the payee, at his or her sole option and expense, may obtain such new life insurance on the payor’s life up to a maximum level of death benefit coverage, or descending death benefit coverage, as is set by the court, such level not to exceed a reasonable amount in light of the court’s award, with the payee or the payee’s designee being the beneficiary of such life insurance.
In determining the maximum level of death benefit coverage, the court shall take into account all relevant facts and circumstances, including the impact on access to life insurance by the maintenance payor.
Please review the Act with any attorney for other details that may be relevant to your case in determining a maintenance award.