Starting on January 1, 2015, Illinois will become one of the first states to implement strict numerical guidelines for alimony. These guidelines only apply to marriages with a combined gross income of under $250,000 in which a judge determines support is appropriate. Judges may only deviate from these guidelines if they explain their reasoning in writing.
Calculation of Amount:
Under the guidelines, support is determined by subtracting 20% of Payee Spouse’s Gross Income from 30% of Payor Spouse’s Gross Income. However, this amount cannot exceed 40% of the ex-spouses’ combined gross income.
For example, Spouse 1 (the payor) and Spouse 2 (the payee) are seeking a divorce. Spouse 1 earns $100,000 per year in gross income, while Spouse 2 earns $50,000 in gross income. The judge has determined that alimony is appropriate.
Step 1: Calculate 40% of the spouses’ combined gross income
- $100,000 + $50,000 = $150,000
- $150,000 x .4 = $60,000
- Thus, the maximum amount Spouse 2 can receive in support cannot cause Spouse 2’s gross income, including the alimony payments, to exceed $60,000.
Step 2: Calculate 30% of Spouse 1’s Gross Income
- $100,000 x .3 = $30,000
Step 3: Calculate 20% of Spouse 2’s Gross Income
- $50,000 x .2 = $10,000
Step 4: Subtract 20% of Spouse 2’s Gross Income from 30% of Spouse 1’s Income
- $30,000 - $10,000 = $20,000
Step 5: Combine Spouse 2’s Income with the Step 4 Amount to determine Spouse 2’s Combined Income
- $50,000 + $20,000 = $70,000
Step 6: Check if Spouse 2’s Combined Income exceeds amount from Step 1. If no, Step 4 amount is the amount of yearly alimony. If yes, proceed to Step 7.
- $70,000 > $60,000
Step 7: Subtract amount from Step 1 from Spouse 2’s Combined Income to find yearly alimony award.
- $70,000 - $60,000 = $10,000.
- Thus, Spouse 2 will be entitled to $10,000 per year in alimony.
Calculation of Duration:
The length of time for support awarded under the guidelines is calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by a preset factor. These numbers are:
Length of Marriage
1 -5 Years
5 – 10 Years
10 – 15 Years
15 – 20 Years
For example, if Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 were married for 14 years, Spouse 2 would be entitled to support for 8.4 years, or [14 x .6].
If a marriage lasted for more than 20 years, the payee spouse will be entitled to either permanent maintenance or maintenance for the amount of time equal to the length of the marriage. This determination is up to the judge’s discretion.
Massachusetts is one of the only other states to pass aggressive alimony reform akin to Illinois’ new laws. Under the 2012 Massachusetts law, judges are given strict guidelines for the amount of time alimony may last for and how much a payor spouse must pay every month. The results have been mixed in the years since the law was passed.
Most judges appear to follow the guidelines for divorces occurring after the law’s passage; however, there has been confusion regarding whether the law retroactively applies to divorces and spousal maintenance awards that occurred before 2012. Three cases on this issue were recently heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, though no decisions have yet been announced.
Additionally, it has been reported that some Massachusetts judges ignore the law, while others seem confused about how to apply these guidelines. These issues aside, it appears the law has resulted in general consistency in alimony awards across the state.
The new Illinois alimony law lacks many of the more confusing provisions of the Massachusetts law, which may result in less confusion in the laws application from the start. However, there are some important components missing from the Illinois law. For example, Illinois lacks deviation factors, such as a spouse’s health, education, or caretaking duties, that could lead to different results based on a family’s unique situation. Though the law allows for deviation from the guidelines upon a written decision by the judge, it is unclear how often that will actually be utilized when a cookie-cutter option for alimony is so strongly endorsed by the legislature, regardless of circumstances.
Another issue with the Illinois guidelines is that they may provide an incentive to drag out divorce proceedings. Because the length of the marriage now directly determines the length of the alimony award, longer divorce proceedings will mean longer support determinations under the guidelines.
The new Illinois Alimony guidelines will likely provide consistency to alimony awards in the state and allow clients and attorneys to more easily predict alimony awards. However, there is now less flexibility for judges to work with for individual cases with unique circumstances.
Ultimately, only time will tell how these guidelines work out in practice. If you are in need of family or spousal support legal representation, contact a Skokie, Illinois divorce lawyer at The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab. Call (847) 943-3913 to schedule an initial consultation.