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Each state has its own rules regarding divorce and related proceedings such as property division, alimony, and child custody, and child support. The precise legal terms for these proceedings differ from state to state.

Alimony—also known as “spousal support” or “maintenance”—refers to the financial support one spouse owes to the other spouse during a divorce and/or after divorce. Throughout the country, the rationale behind awarding alimony in divorce is to prevent injustice from happening to a financially disadvantaged spouse. For example, if one spouse was responsible for working while the other took care of household needs, only one of them is likely to have the experience and skill be financially independent immediate after divorce.

Under Illinois, alimony is technically known as “maintenance.” The word “alimony” was removed in 1977 when the updated Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) was enacted. This change reflected the belief that spouses were equal, and that the spouse who was more financially resourceful was responsible for providing for the other spouse’s reasonable needs after divorce.

Types of Maintenance

Under Illinois law, the duration and amount of maintenance that one spouse will ultimately owe after divorce falls under the following categories:

  • Temporary maintenance—an award of support that the court issues during pending divorce proceedings to continue the status quo of the parties during litigation.
  • Permanent maintenance—a maintenance award that lasts for the entire life of the spouse receiving support. However, indefinite maintenance usually terminates when the receiving spouse dies or remarries. Permanent maintenance can also be modified upon the showing of a change in circumstances such as the loss of a job or retirement.
  • Fixed-term maintenance—maintenance that is awarded after the conclusion of divorce proceedings and ends after a specific amount of time has passed, subject to modification or termination on a date prior in the event of the death of either party, the marriage or cohabitation of the party receiving maintenance or upon the showing of a change in circumstances.
  • Reviewable maintenance—in this instance, the court will review the maintenance issue after a certain amount of time has passed to decide whether to extend or end the support obligation.

Section 504 Factors

IMDMA § 504 requires a court to consider certain factors when considering the issue of maintenance. Under Section 504, issues of maintenance are resolved using a two-step process. In the first step, courts must decide if awarding maintenance is proper under the circumstances, based on the factors below. During the second step, the court will determine the amount and duration of the maintenance obligation, using statutory formulas.

Section 504 lists certain factors when determining if awarding maintenance is appropriate:

  • Each party’s income and property
  • The parties’ respective needs
  • Each party’s current and future earning capacity
  • Anything that impairs the parties’ earning capacities due to domestic duties
  • Anything that impairs the present and future earning capacity of the party paying maintenance
  • The time necessary for the party seeking maintenance to find employment, training, or education to become financially self-sufficient
  • How parenting responsibilities may effect finding work
  • The marital standard of living
  • The length of the marriage
  • The parties’ health, sources of income, work skills, financial obligations, and needs
  • Sources of public and private income, including retirement savings
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • Spousal contributions to the other spouse’s education, training, or career
  • Private agreements between the parties, such as prenuptial contracts

The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC is Ready to Advocate for You

At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., our team of dedicated lawyers has the experience to help you with divorce issues, such as the determination of maintenance. For several years, our legal team—led by experienced family law attorney, Jonathan Merel—has represented the interests of families throughout the Chicagoland area in various domestic relations matters.

Call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. at (312) 487-2795.

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