When Is Spousal Maintenance Appropriate?

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Maintenance is a court order for one spouse to financially help the other spouse during and after a divorce case has been concluded. Maintenance is sometimes referred to as spousal support and in the United States Tax Code it is referred to as alimony.

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When Is Maintenance Ordered?

In Illinois, the question of whether or not an award of maintenance is appropriate is answered by considering factors listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, known as the IMDMA.

These 12 factors include:

  • The income and property of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The current and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • Whether the spouse seeking maintenance devoted time to domestic duties and, as a result, has lower present and future income
  • How long it will take for the spouse seeking support to acquire education, training, and employment and whether the spouse will earn enough to be self-supporting
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • How long the parties were married
  • How old the parties are and their physical and emotional health
  • How the parties are taxed after they divide the marital property
  • How much the spouse seeking support contributed to the other spouse's career
  • Whether the parties have an agreement for one spouse to help the other financially
  • Anything else the judge "expressly finds to be just and equitable"

How Will the Amount of Maintenance be Determined?

The Illinois court has to go through all factors, consider the facts, give weight to each factor, and then reach a final conclusion. This is one of the most contentious and litigated areas of divorce law. By applying the 12 factors to the case the court has evidence of the comparative financial circumstances of both parties.

Each case is unique but the courts and lawyers refer to previously decided cases to gain insight into how much weight to give to each factor and what amount of maintenance is appropriate under the circumstances of the case.

How Many Months or Years Is Maintenance Paid?

Just like the questions of whether to order maintenance and how much to order, the question of how long to order the payments is left to the discretion of the court after an analysis of IMDMA factors. The court can order that a single payment be made or that payments be made for the life of the receiving party or for any time period in between.

How Does Maintenance Relate to Dividing Assets & Debts?

It is a top priority of the court to separate the parties financially. The law wants each spouse to be financially independent as soon as possible and the judge divides assets and debts and awards maintenance with that in mind.

Can Maintenance be Adjusted or Terminated Later?

There are certain post-decree events, such as remarriage, that can terminate maintenance completely. Other changes to either party's financial situation can result in a re-examination of the factors and modification or termination.

If you face divorce and have questions or if you are contemplating or opposing a modification to an existing spousal maintenance order, speak with an experienced Illinois family law attorney to understand the situation and you legal options.

Call Wakenight & Associates, P.C. in:

  • Cook County: (708) 480-9651
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