Get the facts: Illinois Spousal Support Laws Changing


Major changes are on the horizon in 2015 in terms of spousal support. Unlike child support, where the statute sets clear guideline amounts based on the number of children, the amount and duration of spousal support payments had not been clearly defined. However, all of that just changed with the passing of Public Act 98-0961. Previously, courts were given substantial discretion when determining amounts and the duration of spousal support based on a list of factors for judges to consider, including, but not limited to, the length of the parties’ marriage, the present and future earning capacity of each party, and the duration of the marriage.

On August 15, 2014, Governor Quinn signed Public Act 98-0961 into law. This new law will become effective on January 1, 2015, and will amend section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the section which covers spousal maintenance.

Under the new law, if the court determines that spousal support is appropriate, the amount and duration of the maintenance would be as follows:

In situations when the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists, spousal maintenance will be payable in accordance with the guidelines below, unless the court makes a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate.

1. The amount of spousal support (1) shall be calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.

2. The duration of spousal support (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); or 15-20 years (.80). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent spousal maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.

These guidelines offer increased clarity to divorcing couples whose gross income is less than $250,000.00 annually. Regardless of whether divorcing spouses are content with the framework created by the new guidelines, they can at least process what their financial future might look like. The new maintenance guidelines offer direction and clarity, two things that are currently lacking in most discussions surrounding spousal support.

On the other hand, the guidelines do not readily allow for flexibility or take into account the specific facts of any one case, where a shorter or longer payment period or smaller or larger payments might be more equitable. They also do not take into account specific needs and interests of the divorcing parties.

Disability of the payee spouse and whether there were children of the marriage are just two important factors a judge might consider when deciding whether to apply the guidelines or whether to deviate from them. The new spousal support law does allow courts to make a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate. However, it remains to be seen what types of situations will fall into this category and how often this will occur.


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