Can Spousal Support Be Modified?
Finances during and after divorce are a concern for many when adjusting to single life on one income. While this change is challenging for those with established careers and secure employment, those who worked only part-time or stayed at home to raise children face a daunting task that is likely to extend into the foreseeable future.
To make this transition easier and to ward off the possibility of falling into destitution following divorce, a spouse has the right to request spousal support or maintenance from the other party. Some couples settle this issue in advance by executing a prenuptial agreement. However, the majority of couples do not address this issue until the marriage is coming to an end, especially if the parties married young or before a spouse achieved financial success in his or her career.
The founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America was recently ordered by an Illinois Court to pay his ex-wife $28,000 per month in spousal support, substantially down from the $400,000 she requested. For the party ordered to pay support, this obligation can feel like a never-ending burden that permanently keeps him or her tied to an ex-spouse. However, in some cases, spousal support orders can be modified, or even terminated, if the circumstances are right.
Spousal Support Generally
Illinois uses several different formulas to determine the amount and duration of spousal support, with permanent maintenance available at a Court's discretion only for marriages of 20 years or more. To determine if spousal support is appropriate in a given case, a Court must evaluate a number of factors that assess each party's relative earnings capacity and current and future financial recourses.
Examples of these factors include the following:
- The impairment of a party's current and future earnings capacity due to a decision to forego working or pursuing educational/career opportunities for the marriage;
- The time and training it would take for a party to secure employment, and if that employment would be sufficient for support, especially in light of parenting responsibilities;
- The standard of living during the marriage; and
- The length of the marriage.
Modification and Termination
Unless the parties agree that a spousal support award is non-modifiable, either party can request to change the amount or duration of this obligation if he or she can show a substantial change in circumstances. When deciding whether a substantial change in circumstances occurred, a Court must look at the factors mentioned above when initially awarding spousal support, as well as the following:
- A change in employment status by either party, including whether the change was made in good faith, i.e., not principally made to avoid support obligations;
- The efforts of the party receiving support to become self-supporting;
- An increase or decrease in the income of either party;
- The amount of maintenance already paid, and the amount yet to be paid, in relation to the length of the marriage; and
- How much marital property each party received as part of the divorce, and the property's current status.
Spousal support is terminated if: either party dies; the party receiving support remarries or cohabits with a new partner on a continuing basis; or the spousal award was for a fixed-term, applicable to marriages of 10 years or less, which bars future action on this issue once the maintenance term expires.
Speak with an Illinois Divorce Attorney
Spousal support is a centrally-important issue to both parties, and is one of several issues that may require additional legal action once the divorce is granted. If you need assistance with requesting a modification or termination of a spousal support award, talk to the Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. about the details of your situation to learn what post-judgment action you may take.
Spousal support has a large and immediate effect on the finances of both parties, and problems should be addressed as soon as possible to minimize potential damage. Contact dedicated Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a free initial consultation, and learn how he can help you.