Income, Marriage Length, and More Can Be Factors in Spousal Support

When a marriage comes to an end, the emotional toll is only one aspect spouses endure. Negotiating the details of the divorce can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. That’s why many choose the guidance of a divorce lawyer to sort through all the details, including alimony.

Alimony Eligibility

Alimony is generally used when there is a big disparity between the spouses’ incomes. The spouse making more pays alimony to the other, to put them on more equal footing after the marriage ends.

In Illinois, spousal support is restricted to legally married couples, including same-sex. Breaking up with your former live-in boyfriend, for example, does not qualify you for alimony. The term “palimony” is not recognized in Illinois. Either the wife or husband can seek alimony. The divorcing couple can agree to an amount, or it is argued in court and a judge decides the amount.

Alimony Classifications

There are four types of alimony, as outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which underwent extensive revisions that took effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

  • Temporary Alimony. Financial support awarded to one spouse while the divorce is pending. This temporary maintenance ends when the divorce is final.
  • Fixed-Term Alimony. This is usually awarded to allow the recipient to become self-supporting, such as completing education or job training. Fixed-term alimony is alimony awarded for a set duration.
  • Reviewable Alimony. This alimony is subject to periodic court review with the recipient showing their efforts to become self-supporting.
  • Permanent Alimony. This spousal support is awarded for the recipient’s lifetime. That said, there are circumstances that could change even “permanent” alimony, including its termination. To be eligible for permanent alimony, the marriage must have lasted at least 20 years.

Court-Determined Alimony

In 2015, the statutory guidelines that courts use to determine the amount and duration of maintenance was revised for couples with a combined annual gross income of less than $250,000. For those couples making more than $250,000, the statute continues to give the courts discretion when determining the appropriate amount and duration of the maintenance obligation.

The basic formula for calculating alimony in Illinois is 33% of the payer's net income minus 25% of the payee's net income. The amount of spousal support must not result in one party earning over 40% of the combined income of both parties.

The guidelines also give a framework for determining how long alimony is provided. This can range from one year for marriages lasting less than five years to six years for a 12-year marriage, as examples. Those married 20 years or more could be eligible for permanent support.

Courts Denying Spousal Support

Not everyone seeking alimony will be awarded payments, even if one spouse makes more.

The courts consider the following in determining alimony eligibility:

  • Private and public income of each spouse
  • Present and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • Whether one spouse put career or education on hold during the marriage
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, income, job skills, employability, and physical health of each spouse
  • Prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements

Does Child Support Affect Alimony?

Child support can affect alimony. The amount of child support and alimony, when combined, cannot exceed 50% of the payor’s income, even when following the maintenance guidelines. In these situations, the courts have discretion to change the formula for child support or alimony, or both, depending on the circumstances.

Modifying Alimony

Death, cohabitation, and remarriage are three reasons why the courts will terminate spousal support. The party seeking termination must prove that one of the three situations exists.

There are other factors that can change the amount of alimony required, after the courts hear arguments from both parties. The following circumstances are examples that could lead to alimony modification.

  • Change in either party’s income
  • Change in employment status of either party
  • Recipient’s efforts to become self-supporting
  • Impairment affecting the present and future earning capacity of either party

Tax Changes

In divorces settled prior to Jan. 1, 2019, the payors could deduct payments from their taxable income and recipients were required to report the support as income. Divorces settled on or after Jan. 1, 2019, no longer require payments to be considered income and payors can no longer deduct the payments on their income tax returns.

Lean on Experience

Alimony, custody, property division, and other complicated aspects of divorce are best handled by a skilled lawyer. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel P.C., we will always fight for a fair and equitable resolution. Whether you are in the stage of contemplating divorce or seeking to modify an existing alimony judgment, our talented attorneys are committed to making things as easy as possible for you.

Contact us today for a consultation by calling (312) 487-2795 or using our online form.

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