The wave of spousal support laws that is currently moving across the country, especially in states like Florida and New Jersey, made landfall in Illinois earlier this year. In response to reformers who claimed that alimony laws gave too much discretion to judges and led to sometimes indefensible results, the State Legislature significantly reworked the law. Spousal support is still an important component in most divorce proceedings, although the new law makes an award a two-step process.
According to the new Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the court retains discretion to determine whether or not maintenance is appropriate in a given situation. The judge may consider a number of factors, including:
- Parties' Income: This inquiry considers both the payor spouse's ability to pay and the payee spouse's financial need, when taking into account the parties' employment or business income along with any property, especially income-producing property, received in the divorce settlement.
- Non-Economic Contributions: Some spouses delay career advancement, or leave the workforce altogether, to care for minor children, and this sacrifice may have a significant bearing on their earnings potential.
- Standard of Living: Divorce almost always means a reduced standard of living for both spouses, but the reduction must be roughly equal for both parties.
- Marital Agreement: Most judges defer to any formal or informal agreement between the spouses that is not manifestly unfair.
Other factors include the duration of the marriage, which is discussed further in the next section, tax consequences to the parties, the relative ages and health of the spouses, and “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.”
Amount and Duration
Although the judge has some discretion to deviate from the guidelines, the State Legislature clearly intended for the payments to be tied to a specific formula, at least in most cases. According to subsection (b-1), the amount is 30 percent of the payor's gross income minus 20 percent of the payee's gross income, and the length of the order is a multiple based on the length of the marriage.
Assume that Husband and Wife are getting divorced after 15 years of marriage. Husband earns $100,000 per year, and Wife earns $25,000. Wife would be entitled to $25,000 ($30,000 minus $5,000) per year for 12 years; in most cases, a judge would order monthly payments of $2,083.33 per month.
Spousal support is typically an important component of a property settlement. For a consultation with an experienced Naperville divorce attorney, contact our office. Convenient payment plans are available.