January 23, 2015

Spousal Maintenance Reform Comes to the Land of Lincoln

Division of Property, Illinois family law attorney, Illinois spousal support

For the last several years, advocates of alimony change in Illinois, New Jersey, South Carolina, and a number of other jurisdictions have asked their state legislatures to change spousal support laws. Last year, the Illinois state legislature passed significant revisions to the alimony law in Section 504. A judge still has some discretion when setting an amount and duration of payments, but strong presumptions apply in most cases.

Calculation Overview

To determine a spousal maintenance amount, first subtract 20 percent of a payee’s income from 30 percent of a payor’s income. To determine the duration, a variable percentage is multiplied by the length of the marriage.

Example One: Peter and Renee

After five years of marriage, Peter and Renee are divorcing. They do not own a house, nor do they have children. They have little community property. Peter earns $40,000 per year, and Renee earns $60,000. Peter has asked for spousal support.

According to the formulas in 504(b-1)(1), Peter is presumptively entitled to $10,000–$18,000, minus $8,000—for one year. Based on these facts, there is no reason for a judge to award more or less alimony.

Example Two: Pam and Raul

Raul is an up-and-coming attorney. His wife, Pam, has largely stayed home to care for their children. The couple is divorcing after ten years of marriage. Raul earns $100,000 per year, and Pam earns $5,000 per year as a part-time teacher’s aid. Their largest marital asset is a retirement account in Raul’s name, and he has agreed to give nearly all of it to Pam.

The guideline amount of spousal support for Pam is $29,000 per year–$30,000, minus $1,000—for six years. However, there are possible variables. A judge could increase the amount and/or duration of payments in consideration of Pam’s decision to stay home and care for their children. On the other hand, a court may conclude that the disproportionate share of the retirement account may provide for Pam’s needs, and not deviate from the guidelines.

Pam and Peter are entitled to temporary maintenance, permanent maintenance, or both. “Permanent” does not mean lifelong, unless the spouses were married for more than 20 years. Even then, a judge has discretion to set a duration equal to the length of a marriage (e.g., 25 years of alimony payments for a 25-year marriage).

Consult a Knowledgeable Illinois Family Law Attorney

Although the law has changed, a knowledgeable DuPage County family law attorney can help ensure an equitable award. If you are considering divorce and have questions regarding spousal maintenance reform in Illinois, please call Mulyk Laho Law, LLC today to schedule a confidential consultation.