How Will the New Spousal Maintenance Guidelines Impact You?

If you are in the process of filing for divorce in Chicago, you may have heard that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent a substantial overhaul relatively recently. Some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about divorce in Illinois concerns spousal maintenance (also known as alimony). How can you know if you will be awarded spousal maintenance or if you will be required to make spousal maintenance payments? And if the court does award spousal maintenance, for how long will it last, and how much will the payments total?

The latter questions—the duration and amount of spousal maintenance—are questions that have been addressed in the revisions to Illinois’s divorce laws. Prior to the IMDMA rewrite, there was no objective formula for calculating spousal maintenance awards. Now, under the current law, there are guidelines for the court to follow in situations where the two parties getting divorced have a combined gross income of less than $250,000. To better understand how the guidelines are applied, we should take a closer look at the language of the law and then look at a hypothetical example.

Understanding the Spousal Maintenance Formula Guidelines in Illinois

What does the statute say about applying a uniform formula to spousal maintenance awards when the couple earns a combined gross income of less than $250,000? Under 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1)(1), the statute explains that the amount of spousal maintenance will be calculated like this:

  • Take 30 percent of the payor’s gross income;
  • Subtract 20 percent of the payee’s gross income; and
  • Ensure that the remaining amount (which will be the spousal maintenance award) is not more than 40 percent of the combined gross income of the parties.

How about the duration of the spousal maintenance award? There is also a formula for calculating duration under the guidelines, presuming that the spouses earn a combined gross income of less than $250,000. Those calculations require the court to multiply the length of the marriage by appropriate factor listed below to determine the duration of the award:

  • Marriage of 5 years or fewer: multiply by .20;
  • Marriage of more than 5 years but fewer than 10: multiply by .40;
  • Marriage of 10 years or more but fewer than 15 years: multiply by .60;
  • Marriage of 15 years or more but fewer than 20 years: multiply by .80; and
  • Marriage of 20 years or more: court has the discretion to award permanent maintenance or a maintenance award equal to the length of the marriage.

Putting the Guidelines Into Practice

How do these formulas work in practice? Imagine we have a couple, John and Jane, who are getting divorced in Chicago. John earns $100,000 per year and Jane earns $25,000. They have been married for 12 years. How will the court make an award of spousal maintenance?

Since the couple earns a gross income of less than $250,000, the guidelines are likely to be applied. First, the court will calculate an amount. Under the guidelines, we would take 30 percent of John’s (the payor’s) income and subtract 20 percent of Jane’s (the payee’s) income:

  • 30 percent of $100,000 = $30,000;
  • 20 percent of $25,000 = $5,000;
  • $30,000 – $5,000 = $25,000.

The award is $25,000. Since it does not exceed 40 percent of the total combined gross income, the award may be appropriate. Now, how will the court determine duration of the award?

Since John and Jane have been married for 12 years, the court will multiply 12 by .60, which equals 7.2. As such, if the court follows the guidelines, Jane will receive $25,000 for 7.2 years.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Attorney

It is important to recognize that there are situations in which the court may not apply the guidelines even if the couple’s combined gross income is less than $250,000. It is important to discuss your case with a Chicago divorce lawyer before making any decisions about your situation. Contact Arami Law today.

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