When one partner chooses to work part time or to opt out of the workforce entirely to focus on his or her household and children, that individual may seek spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, in his or her divorce.

Spousal maintenance is money one spouse pays to the other after their divorce to help the lesser earning spouse avoid financial hardship. It exists to close the gap between the spouse who supported the family financially during their marriage and the spouse who sacrificed his or her career advancement to invest in the family’s health and the earning spouse’s career.

Types of Spousal Maintenance

In previous generations, it was quite common for the court to award a spousal maintenance recipient permanent maintenance. Today, most spousal maintenance orders are for specific periods of time. Generally, the duration of a spousal maintenance order is determined according to the length of the couple’s marriage. Permanent maintenance, or for an “indefinite term,” as it is now known as of January 1, 2018, may be awarded when the recipient demonstrates that he or she is incapable of entering the workforce, which can be the case when he or she has a disability or is too close to retirement age to realistically start working.

In some cases, the court orders what is known as rehabilitative maintenance, a short-term order that provides the recipient with the support he or she needs to cover living expenses while completing a vocational or college program in preparation to enter the workforce.

An individual may receive temporary maintenance while his or her divorce is pending. This maintenance order terminates when the couple’s divorce is finalized and may be replaced with an official maintenance order.

How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Illinois?

Previously, spousal maintenance was determined by considering a set of factors about the couple’s lifestyle and needs, much like it is in many other states. As the result of recent changes to the law, Illinois courts now use a statutory formula to determine a couple’s spousal maintenance order. The formula used in most divorces is as follows:

Twenty-five percent of the lesser earning spouse’s net income is subtracted from thirty-three and one-third percent of the higher earning spouse’s net income. This figure is divided by 12 to determine the amount of maintenance the recipient will receive monthly. However, this final number cannot exceed forty percent of the combined net income of both parties. Furthermore, to determine how long he or she will receive the support, the court applies a multiplier based on the length of the couple’s marriage.

Modifying or Terminating a Spousal Maintenance Order

There are a few circumstances that terminate a spousal maintenance order. They are:

  • The recipient’s remarriage;
  • The recipient’s cohabitation with a new partner; and
  • The recipient’s death.

When the paying spouse faces financial hardship and cannot continue to make payments, he or she may seek a modification to the spousal maintenance order. To have the modification approved, he or she must demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that make the current payment amount inappropriate. These changes could affect either party. For example, the paying spouse may seek a modification because he or she retired or because the recipient inherited a large sum of money.

Work with an Experienced Chicago Maintenance Attorney

To learn more about spousal maintenance, divorce, and related topics, schedule a legal consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer. Do not wait to get started – contact The Law Office of Gina L. Colaluca, LLC today to set up your initial consultation with our firm.