For the fourth time in four years, the Florida House of Representatives wants to follow Illinois' lead and largely end permanent spousal support in the Sunshine State. The measure likely has enough support to make it through both the House and Senate. Two years ago, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a similar bill, because it applied retroactively to prior property divisions. Last year, advocates removed the retroactivity provision but another controversial element – a presumption that equal time-sharing was in the children's best interest – caused that bill to fail. Another bill died because the session expired.
One family law attorney welcomed the proposed changes because the mathematical formula makes alimony awards more predictable and thus more negotiable during mediation.
Alimony in Illinois
Permanent spousal support is already mostly a thing of the past in the Land of Lincoln, as the wave of alimony reform that keeps crashing ashore in Florida touched Illinois lawmakers several years ago.
As of January 1, 2015, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act treats spousal support much like child support, in most cases. Instead of nearly unlimited discretion regarding both the amount and duration of payments, judges must now apply a mathematical formula that utilizes:
- 30 percent of the payor spouse's gross income;
- 20 percent of the payee spouse's gross income; and
- The length of the marriage.
The gross income for spousal support purposes is calculated much differently than the net income used in child support calculation. Gross income refers to all income from all sources without any allowable reductions.
Specifically, the amount of support is found by subtracting 20 percent from the payees gross income from 30 percent of the payors gross income. The duration of the order is based on a percentage of the length of the marriage, according to a table provided in the statute.
Assume that Wife earns $150,000 per year, Husband earns $30,000 per year, and they are divorcing after a 15-year marriage. Wife would pay husband $39,000 ($45,000 minus $6,000) per year for 12 years (15 multiplied by 0.8).
Is Spousal Support Needed?
Before that formula is even applied, however, the requesting spouse must introduce evidence that support is necessary. That decision is based on:
- Each party's income, property, and economic circumstances,
- Relative age and health of the parties,
- Duration of the marriage,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage, and
- Any spousal agreements.
Fault in the breakup of the marriage is not relevant to alimony determination. Cases in which the combined income of the parties exceeds $250,000 per year or involve alimony or support from previous relationships will be handled on a situational basis at the discretion of the court.
For prompt assistance in this area, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. Convenient payment plans are available.