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Illinois divorce lawyerUnder some states’ laws, individuals may waive their right to seek spousal maintenance in their divorces. When an individual or couple chooses to waive this right, they typically include it in their prenuptial agreement. Illinois is not one of these states. In Illinois, spousal maintenance is a right just like child support is a right. However, there are limits to this right. Unless the couple agrees to it, a judge cannot order unallocated spousal maintenance after their divorce. In other words, a judge must include a specific dollar figure in a couple’s spousal maintenance order.

How Is Spousal Maintenance Determined in Illinois?

On January 1, 2015, Illinois’ current spousal maintenance law went into effect. This formula replaced the older way of determining spousal maintenance, which was a set of factors that courts could consider at their discretion to determine an appropriate maintenance amount and period of time over which it would be paid. Now, spousal maintenance is calculated according to a formula that takes both partners’ gross incomes and specific percentages of each to determine an appropriate maintenance amount, not unlike Illinois’ child support formula. The spousal maintenance formula is as follows:

Thirty percent of the higher earning spouse’s annual income minus 20 percent of the lower-earning spouse’s annual income equals the annual maintenance amount.

This formula is not applied to all cases. When a couple’s combined income is $250,000 per year or higher, the court may deviate from the formula to determine an appropriate maintenance amount. If the difference between the figures for the partners used in the formula plus the recipient’s gross income is more than 40 percent of the couple’s combined income, the maintenance amount is reduced to put it at 40 percent of their combined income.

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Illinois divorce attorneyWhen one spouse chooses to leave the workforce to care for the couple’s home and children or takes on lower paying work than he or she would otherwise be able to perform in order to do so, that spouse may seek spousal maintenance, once known as alimony, as part of the couple’s divorce settlement. Spousal maintenance is designed to prevent a lower earning spouse from experiencing financial hardship following his or her divorce.

Permanent vs. Temporary Spousal Maintenance

In the past, it was far more common for one partner to stay home while the other provided the family’s sole income than it is today. Divorced individuals who stayed home during their marriages were also less frequently expected to reenter the workforce or enter it for the first time after their divorces. These individuals were frequently awarded permanent alimony, which ensured that they received support from their former partners until they remarried or their former partners died.

Today, dual-income households are the norm. Individuals who opt out of the workforce often do so with some years of working experience and may have vocational or college degrees. Because these individuals can support themselves after their divorces, they are generally awarded temporary spousal maintenance. This maintenance provides a “cushion” for the receiver, permitting him or her to complete an education or secure employment before having to financially support him- or herself completely.

There are some cases where permanent maintenance may still be awarded, such as marriages that lasted 20 years or longer or cases where the lesser earning spouse cannot realistically return to the workforce due to age or disability.

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family law attorneyAs a parent undergoing divorce, you have your work cut out for you. Not only do you need to address the legal technicalities of the split in the midst of experiencing the grieving process, you also need to tackle all the issues that accompany the end of a marriage, including everything from the division of assets and parenting time (visitation), to parenting plans and inventory of your personal finances. For the stay-at-home parent, divorce requires a complete lifestyle overhaul, which can trigger a number of concerns for the spouse who has been the primary caregiver at home.

Safeguarding Your Rights as a Stay-at-Home Parent

The idea that the stay-at-home parent will be able to continue to live the lifestyle they were originally accustomed to prior to the divorce is sadly not always a realistic one. While there are laws that vary from state to state that allow certain protections for the stay-at-home spouse, the parent’s lifestyle will inevitably change as their financial circumstances evolve due to the divorce. Parents used to staying home to raise their children can still make the effort to safeguard their rights during the transition in the following ways:

Explore the possibility of maintenance - Here in the state of Illinois, the law may entitle you to maintenance (alimony), which is sometimes awarded to account for a significant difference in income and earnings between spouses. The amount you may be eligible for and the length of time you may receive the award is determined by a mathematical formula and factors summarized in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/504). The court will look at everything from the current and future earning capacity of each spouse, joint property and assets, and the needs of each spouse, to the standard of living that was established during the marriage and how long the union lasted. Exploring your eligibility for maintenance can help you plan, prepare, and protect your financial well-being

Assess your assets - In order to protect your livelihood after your divorce, you need to first get a clear snapshot of what your finances currently look like. This will help you gauge what you are walking into after the divorce, and help you know what needs to be addressed when consulting with your attorney. Take stock of everything from your mortgage and car title to basic monthly expenses and debts, and also jot down any potential employment options as well as educational pursuits you may explore, which may incur additional expenses on your behalf.

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Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois alimony attorneyAmong the many questions divorcing spouses have following a separation, questions regarding alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, tend to be a big concern. This is particularly true for stay-at-home parents or spouses who are not the main earners in the household. Taking on greater financial responsibility - or in some cases, any financial responsibility at all - can be a scary thing, especially when one spouse has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle and is suddenly thrust into a new routine.

Alimony’s Nationwide Evolution

As societal roles and career opportunities have changed for both men and women in recent decades, so have the expectations and allowances surrounding spousal maintenance. More women are working now more than ever, and the concept of stay-at-home fathers is far from new. According to Labor Department statistics, nearly three-quarters of women work. In the year 2010, 97 percent of the 400,000 people receiving alimony were women, and that trend has been a continual one.

These statistics have revealed an important fact about alimony and its place in today’s post-divorce world: It seems the majority of alimony recipients continue to be women, but most of those women are actively involved in the workforce during the time of the marriage or become employed following the divorce. As a result, states all throughout the country have been taking these factors into consideration when determining maintenance awards in court rulings.

Is Spousal Maintenance a Sure Thing?

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