One of the many considerations that commonly arise during divorce is the issue of spousal support, which is also known as alimony or spousal maintenance. In years past, spousal support was more common than it is now, simply because our culture and society were different. In many cases, it was not uncommon for women, in particular, to stay home to raise children and take care of the household while the man worked outside of the home to financially support the family.
While this may have worked during the marriage, it tended to create financial dependence, causing issues if the couple ended up getting divorced. Rather than leaving the woman to fend for herself, spousal maintenance was created, requiring the working spouse to contribute a portion of his or her income to help support their former spouse until they can get back on their feet. In today’s world, spousal support is less common than it used to be, but it is still an issue that can arise, and it can lead to contentious disputes between divorcing spouses.
Awarding Spousal Support in Divorce
Spousal maintenance is not guaranteed in all Illinois divorces. There will be some cases in which spousal support would not be appropriate, such as if both spouses have jobs and earn enough income to support themselves. If the issue of spousal support is contested, a judge will determine if a spousal maintenance award is necessary. To do this, he or she will look at a variety of factors that may include things like you and your spouse’s income, each of your present and realistic earning capacities, how long your marriage lasted, and each of your needs....
When you are facing the possibility of a divorce, you are likely to have many questions. Where will you live? Who will get the furniture? How will you share parenting responsibilities for your children? All of these, of course, are very valid questions. Many who are considering a divorce may also wonder if they will be ordered to pay alimony—known as “spousal maintenance” under Illinois law. If you are headed for a divorce, it is important to understand how maintenance-related decisions are made in Illinois.
A Brief Background
Spousal maintenance, in general, is intended to help minimize the effects of a divorce on a spouse who is at a comparative financial disadvantage. In previous generations, alimony payments were practically standard in most divorce cases, because a significant percentage of households relied on the income of just one spouse—most often the husband. Meanwhile, the other spouse—most often the wife—usually worked substantially less, if she worked at all. Instead, her primary role was to maintain the family home and care for the couple's children.
When this type of “traditional” couple got divorced, it was effectively impossible for the spouse with hardly any income to support herself, especially if she was given primary custody of the children. As a result, the couple’s divorce judgment generally contained provisions that required the higher-earning spouse to make support payments. Such payments could be temporary or permanent based on whether the lower-earning spouse could eventually support herself....
In Illinois, child support is taken seriously. Illinois law recognizes that all parents are financially responsible for meeting their children’s needs until the children are no longer minors. While ensuring that children’s safety and welfare are protected, the law can place a financial burden on those who must pay support. When non-custodial parents do not pay financial support, the other parent may take measures to ensure child support is paid.
Non-custodial parents who do not pay child support can be held in contempt of court. However, cases involving non-payment are often resolved before these types of charges are filed, and to ensure that payments are made, the non-custodial parent’s wages may be garnished. The parent’s employer will then be responsible for deducting the ordered amount from his or her wages and making the payments to the custodial parent. However, a parent may wonder how wage garnishment is handled and what will happen if an employer fails to make these payments.
How Wage Garnishment for Child Support Works
A parent who has not received court-ordered child support payments can petition the court to garnish the wages of the other parent. The amount garnished may address both ongoing payments and any back payments and interest owed. If the court allows the wage garnishment, up to 50 percent of the non-custodial parent’s wages can be deducted from their paychecks. If the non-custodial parent does not have any other support obligations, such as child support or spousal support from a previous relationship, up to 60 percent of his or her wages can be garnished. Additionally, if a non-custodial parent is more than 12 weeks behind on child support payments, another 5 percent can be garnished from his or her wages....
Getting divorced may be the right move for the health and happiness of both spouses, but financially, this decision can be devastating. The divorce process itself is expensive for many couples, and rearranging finances after years of sharing responsibility is no easy task. Making this transition is extremely difficult for all spouses, but those facing financial disadvantages are at risk of suffering irreparable fiscal damage by leaving the marriage. Spouses in this situation may have the option of asking for spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony) from the other spouse if his or her financial means are more lucrative and stable.
Spouses who are returning to work after years or decades of absence will likely struggle to maintain an acceptable standard of living post-divorce, and decisions about spousal maintenance are frequently settled via negotiation or mediation. However, resolving this matter is about to get much more complicated and volatile, as a new tax law goes into effect on January 1, 2019, that will completely upend the treatment of spousal support. This change will greatly disincentivize a paying spouse from agreeing to this support, and it will greatly increase the likelihood of litigation to determine whether alimony will be required.
Paying spousal maintenance is a significant financial burden for most people. Under the current tax laws, a person may deduct alimony payments from their federal income taxes, thereby reducing the payor’s overall tax liability. The former spouse receiving spousal support is currently required to report this money as income....
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....
Transitioning from a two-income household down to one, following divorce, is a large adjustment for most individuals. In most instances, though, each party is able to financially support himself or herself, excluding child support, without contribution from the former spouse. However, maintenance, or spousal support, is sometimes necessary to sustain a former spouse while he or she, for example, gains new skills or training to make him or her more employable.
Illinois amended the laws on spousal maintenance in 2015 to make these awards more predictable by removing any subjectivity on the amount and duration of the maintenance obligation — although, a Court's obligation to first determine if maintenance is appropriate remains the same. A set formula now determines how much and for how long maintenance awards will be, and only marriages of 20 years or more are eligible for permanent maintenance, which is left to the Court's discretion to decide.
However, even though maintenance awards are easier to predict under the new provisions, changes may occur once the Court order is in place that justify a modification or cancellation. Someone subject to pay maintenance should not be locked into this obligation if circumstances make this arrangement untenable or unfair....
When a judge issues a spousal maintenance or spousal support order, one spouse must pay a certain amount of money on a regular basis to the other spouse. You only receive maintenance if the judge decides that you need it and your spouse has the ability to pay it. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) contains uniform guidelines for spousal maintenance orders in Illinois divorce proceedings. The goal of the guidelines is to make spousal maintenance awards in divorce more consistent and to let you know what to expect if you get spousal maintenance in your Illinois divorce.
Application of the Spousal Maintenance Guidelines
The spousal maintenance guidelines apply only when the judge already decided that maintenance is appropriate. To determine whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in your case, the judge must consider several factors, including the following for both parties:...
The calculation of spousal maintenance, or alimony, has become increasingly inconsistent in recent years due to the large amount of discretion given to individual judges in assigning awards. However, in 2014, the Illinois legislature passed an amendment to the state’s alimony law. The new law works to limit individual judges’ discretion in alimony awards by providing judges with a specific set of spousal maintenance guidelines to follow when making their rulings.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act
Prior to the passage of the amendments to the Marriage Act, Judges determined whether a spouse was entitled to alimony based on factors listed in the Illinois statutes. These factors included:...
Awarding alimony to stay-at-home parents that terminates when their youngest child turns 18, or when they remarry — whichever comes first — is not an uncommon action by the Court. Not wanting to lose alimony payments, however, some decide to never marry again and intend on receiving the alimony payments for the duration of their entire lives.
But what if a spouse who receives alimony moves in and establishes a relationship with a new partner that is akin to marriage, minus the official papers? Can alimony be terminated?
Modification of Palatine Alimony Award Based on Cohabitation...