Governor Quinn recently signed an amendment to Illinois’ divorce and family law statute into law. For the first time, judges will have guidelines to consider before awarding spousal maintenance, or alimony, to a party in divorce. The change will be significant. Until now, judges have had tremendous discretion to award any amount of maintenance for any amount of time. Most judges will now rely on guidelines for determining maintenance.
There are three steps to a maintenance award under the new law. First, the judge must determine that a divorcing spouse should be paying maintenance to the other spouse. This determination will continue to be discretionary.
Once the judge decides there should be an award of spousal maintenance, the guidelines kick in. Step two is determining how much maintenance should be paid. The formula for determining dollar amount is 30% of the paying spouse’s gross income – 20% of the receiving spouse’s gross income. Hypothetically, picture a paying spouse who grosses $100,000 and a receiving spouse who grosses $50,000. 30% of $100,000 is $30,000; 20% of $50,000 is $10,000. Therefore, the paying spouse in our example should pay annual maintenance of $20,000.
Finally, we arrive at the third step. For how long should a maintenance award last? That depends on how long you have been married. The formula for determining the length of an award of spousal maintenance is Years of Marriage, multiplied by either 20%, 40%, 60% or 80%. If your marriage last under 5 years, the court multiplies your actual years married by 20% if your marriage last between 5 and 10 years, the court multiplies your actual years married for 10%. At 10 to 15 years of marriage, that percentage rises to 60%, and it rises once more if you were married between 15 and 20 years. If your marriage has lasted for over 20 years, the Judge may award permanent spousal maintenance.
An example is useful for understanding this step. Say you will receive maintenance. You were married for 12 years. The formula the court will use for determining for how long you will receive maintenance is 12 years * 60%. This works out to 7.2 years of maintenance. Compare this to a 17 year marriage. This time, the formula is 17 * 80%, or 13.6 years of maintenance.
When you are undergoing divorce, it is important to choose a law firm that understands the new laws as well as the old. Trust the Law Offices of Van A. Schwab for excellent and experienced Skokie, Illinois divorce attorneys who focus their practice on family law issues.