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When you are considering divorce or are in the process of getting divorced, the topic of spousal maintenance can be complex and frustrating. For anyone who has questions about obtaining spousal maintenance, the process for seeking support can feel confusing. For a spouse who has concerns about paying spousal maintenance, it can be difficult to find clear answers to questions about alimony. The following are some frequently asked questions we receive concerning spousal maintenance, along with answers to those questions from our spousal maintenance lawyers.
How Does Spousal Maintenance Get Awarded?
Under Part V of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/), in order to get spousal maintenance—also known sometimes as spousal support or alimony—the spouse who wants to get it needs to ask for it specifically. Once a spouse requests maintenance, typically as part of a divorce proceeding, the first issue the court needs to decide is whether maintenance is appropriate. To determine whether maintenance is appropriate, the court considers many different factors. Those statutory factors may include, for example:
- The income of the spouses;
- Needs of each spouse;
- The spouse’s ability to earn an income, both now and in the future ;
- Whether the future earning capacity of the spouse needing alimony is impacted by the time spent caring for the home or children during the marriage;
- Whether any factor might impact the payor of alimony’s ability to earn income in the future;
- Amount of time the lesser-earning spouse would need to acquire the employment necessary to support himself or herself;
- Effect of parenting scheduled on either party’s ability to seek or maintain employment;
- Standard of living established during the marriage;
- Duration of the marriage; and
- Health, age, station, and occupation of the parties.
The statute also lists additional factors that the court can consider in determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. Once the court decides that a maintenance award is appropriate, then it must determine the amount and duration of that award.
How Does a Court Decide the Amount of Spousal Maintenance Awarded?
Under Illinois law, if a couple earns a combined gross income of less than $500,000, then the court typically uses formula guidelines for calculating the amount of a spousal maintenance award. Here is how that calculation works:
- First, take 33% of the paying spouse’s net income;
- Then, subtract 25% of the receiving spouse’s net income; and
- The remaining amount equals the yearly total for spousal maintenance.
For example, if the paying spouse has an annual net income of $100,000, and the receiving spouse has an annual net income of $40,000, here is how the calculation would work:
- 33% of $100,000 = $33,000;
- Subtract 25% of $40,000, which equals $10,000; and
- Remaining amount is $23,000.
That $23,000 spousal maintenance award usually would get divided into equal monthly amounts.
Are Interim Spousal Maintenance Awards Available?
Yes. When a married couple is getting divorced, one of the parties can seek an interim award. In determining whether an interim award is appropriate, the court will consider many of the same factors listed above.
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