After a divorce, alimony is important to the economic well-being of many spouses. However, sometimes, a spouse's circumstances change and an alimony award is no longer appropriate. Fortunately, Illinois law provides that an alimony award may be modified or terminated in certain cases.
To modify an alimony award in Illinois, a spouse must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that warrants modification. In determining whether a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, the Court must review the factors initially considered in making the award, along with additional factors, including:
- Any change in either spouse’s employment status or income;
- The payee spouse’s efforts to become self-supporting;
- Any impairment of either spouse’s earning capacity;
- The tax consequences of alimony payments;
- The duration of the alimony award relative to the length of the marriage;
- Each spouse’s property; and
- Any other factor the Court deems just.
There are several ways to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that warrants modification. Substantial changes in circumstances may occur if alimony is no longer necessary — for example, if the payee spouse gets a new job and becomes self-supporting. The payor spouse’s inability to pay may also merit modification. This may occur if the payor spouse loses his or her job or develops health problems that prevent him or her from working.
The payor spouse’s retirement may constitute a change in circumstances; however, the Court will consider factors such as the reasons for the retirement, the payor’s age and health, the payor’s ability to pay, and the payee spouse’s ability to be self-supporting. Still, a payor spouse may not quit a job or retire early just to avoid alimony payments.
Sometimes an alimony order will state that the order is reviewable on a certain date. In that case, the parties have the right to have the Court review the award on that date; a showing of a substantial change in circumstances is not required to alter the award.
Spouses may also agree that an alimony award is non-modifiable — even a substantial change in circumstances will not warrant a modification.
Illinois law provides that alimony payments shall terminate upon:
- Either spouse’s death;
- The recipient spouse’s remarriage; or
- The recipient spouse entering into a cohabitative, conjugal relationship.
If the payee spouse intends to remarry, he or she must notify the payor spouse of that intention at least 30 days before getting married, or, if the decision is made within that period, at least 72 hours before the remarriage. The payment obligation terminates on the date of the remarriage or the date the cohabitation begins. The payor spouse is entitled to reimbursement for any payments made after that date.
If you believe that a change in your circumstances warrants an alimony modification, or if you believe that your spouse is unjustly requesting a modification, please call skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson to schedule a free consultation.