Calculating Alimony in Illinois

In all new Illinois divorce cases, spousal support awards are much more predictable than they used to be, at least in most situations. In the last several years, a growing number of states have reconsidered their alimony laws in response to criticism from advocacy groups. These organizations claim that permanent alimony is essentially punitive and does not reflect the purpose of such payments. The argument may be correct or incorrect; however, its tenants have been at least partially adopted in a number of jurisdictions, including The Land of Lincoln.

The Change

Before January 2015, spousal support determinations were similar to child custody orders—both were rather subjective. Custody orders must be in the best interests of the children, and judges examine a number of factors to make that determination; maintenance awards used essentially the same process.

Furthermore, the law contained an implicit assumption that the recipient spouse's economic status was permanently lower than the paying spouse's lifestyle. Such a condition may be true in many cases, but it is certainly not present in all situations.

The main objection from lawyers and advocacy groups was that the subjective standard led to unpredictable results.

As of January 2015, spousal maintenance decisions structurally resemble child support orders: there is a default guideline, and judges have discretion to deviate from the guidelines in certain circumstances. Moreover, permanent alimony has essentially been abolished under this more objective standard.

The Rule

The revised Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act applies to all couples whose combined gross income is under $250,000. In most cases, the formula to determine the amount is 30 percent of the payor spouse's gross income minus 20 percent of the payee's gross income; the duration of payments is a multiplier based on the length of the marriage.

Assume that Wife's gross income is $40,000, Husband's gross annual income is $30,000, and they are divorcing after an eight year marriage. Wife would owe Husband $7,000 per year for 3.2 years ($13,000 minus $6,000 multiplied by .4). In most cases, the payments would be $580 per month for 38 months.

Before the judge can award maintenance, however, there must be a determination that maintenance is reasonable under the circumstances, based on factors including:

  • Income and property of the parties,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  • Custody of minor children, and
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant.

A judge can deviate from the guidelines and apply these same factors to determine the amount and duration of payments, if appropriate.

If you have questions in regards to calculating alimony in Illinois, or any other family law matter, please contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney today at Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.


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