Alimony vs. Spousal Maintenance in Illinois: What is the Difference?

A Schaumburg couple learned that their son has autism when he still was not talking at age 3. Their son’s special needs became all-consuming. Between therapy and special lessons, the wife felt she could no longer keep her position as vice president of a small start-up. Her husband promised her that he was okay with her quitting her job. As the years went on, however, they began to bicker more and more with each other over finances.

The husband began to resent his wife. He started seeing someone else on the side. After the wife found out about the affair, she decided to file for divorce. Since she gave up her career to care for their child, she is hoping for alimony payments. Below, we will discuss the terms ‘alimony’ and ‘spousal support’ under Illinois divorce law.

Illinois Law Now Calls Alimony ‘Spousal Maintenance’

The legislature recently amended Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). This section deals with spousal maintenance, previously referred to as ‘alimony’ or ‘spousal support.’ As of January 1, 2019, judges and attorneys must use the term ‘spousal maintenance’ instead of alimony when involved in a divorce proceeding. While the names have changed, alimony and spousal support refer to the same thing. Alimony and spousal support refer to one spouse paying another spouse monthly cash payments.

When is Spousal Maintenance Appropriate?

Before you can receive spousal support, the court needs to decide that it is warranted per the facts in your case. You are either entitled to spousal maintenance or not. Judges consider several factors when determining whether to award maintenance, including the length of the marriage. When one spouse stays home to parent the couple’s children, the judge will consider that factor, as well.

When the court finds that spousal maintenance is warranted, they will then determine the amount and duration. When the couple’s combined gross annual income is under $500,000, courts will typically use the formula set out in Illinois’ divorce law to calculate the amount of spousal maintenance. As of January 1, 2019, judges calculate maintenance by taking 33.3% of the paying spouse's net annual income minus 25% of the receiving spouse's net annual income.

Courts will order spousal maintenance for a time frame as indicated in the relevant statute. The longer the couple is married, the longer the spousal support will last. For example, if the couple was married less than five years, the court will multiply five years by .20. As a result, the payor spouse would pay spousal maintenance for one year. If the couple was married 19 years, the court would multiply the length of the marriage by .80. The paying spouse would make spousal support payments for 15.2 years.

Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Divorce Lawyer

Are you considering filing for divorce in Cook County? Do you have questions about spousal maintenance? If so, Glasgow & Olsson is here to help. When you need an attorney, experience matters. Contact us today to learn how our experience can get you the results you deserve.

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