Can I Receive Alimony After My Divorce?

Posted on in Spousal Support

IL divorce lawyerWhether you can be awarded alimony in your Illinois divorce depends on the length of your marriage, the marital income, and other factors Illinois spousal maintenance law considers important. The judge will likely take your ability to earn a living into consideration as well. If you were married and a homemaker for a long time, you likely have a very strong case for needing alimony. It can be extremely difficult to re-enter the workforce after years of being a full-time parent or devoting yourself to running the household. Courts generally do not want to see anyone left in a position where they cannot afford to meet their basic needs after a divorce. If you believe that you will need alimony after your divorce, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who can identify the best arguments in your favor. 

Length of Marriage Matters

People who were married for a very long time usually have the best chances of being awarded alimony. This is because courts know it can be very challenging for someone who has not worked in many years to suddenly start working again. Divorcing spouses in this position may receive temporary alimony for a set period of time so that they have support while getting an education or job training. 

Ability to Work is Important

In some cases, one spouse cannot work at all due to a disability or advanced age. In these cases, courts are more likely to award long-term alimony. If you are an older couple getting divorced, the court will not likely expect either spouse to go out and learn new job skills. Judges generally do not want to see people suddenly unable to meet their basic needs because they got divorced. In most cases, courts will try to make sure both spouses can largely maintain their standard of living. 


IL divorce lawyerThe vast majority of couples who get divorced in Illinois want to move on with their lives and not have anything to do with each other once the divorce is finalized. However, certain situations - including spousal maintenance, or alimony, payments - can keep former spouses tied together long after the bonds of love have been severed.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals sometimes try to take advantage of the system and their former spouse by hiding important details that would potentially end spousal maintenance payments. If you are paying spousal maintenance and are wondering whether you may be eligible to stop, read on.

When Can I Stop Paying Spousal Maintenance in Illinois?

There are four types of spousal maintenance in Illinois:


DuPage County Divorce LawyerSometimes called “alimony” or “spousal maintenance,” spousal support is money paid from one spouse to the other during or following divorce. Spousal support is not always awarded, but it can be a crucial financial lifeline for people after divorce, especially homemakers who withdrew from the workforce to raise a family. 

Spousal support orders are set for an amount and duration that are appropriate to the circumstances. However, each party’s circumstances can change in a way that warrants modifying support payments. If you are making or receiving spousal maintenance payments, it is useful to know which circumstances require or allow a change in payments. 

Substantial Change in Circumstances

A change in spousal support requires a substantial change in circumstances and many different situations can qualify. To begin with, if the party receiving spousal support gets married again, moves in with a new partner, or dies, spousal support payments stop. In fact, an individual who is receiving payments can be faced with legal consequences if they fail to notify the paying party that they are cohabiting with, or married to, a new partner. 


Wheaton IL family law attorneyAlimony, formally known as spousal maintenance in Illinois, is sometimes ordered by a judge when two people get divorced. Spousal maintenance refers to payments one spouse will make to another, and it can be one of the most contentious issues in divorce cases. However, it is also one of the most misunderstood. If you are going through a divorce and want to seek spousal maintenance, or defend against claims for it, it is important to understand the truth behind some of the myths surrounding it.

Myth: Spousal Maintenance is Permanent

Spousal maintenance is meant to help one party get back on their feet after a divorce, and as such, it is usually ordered for a fixed time period rather than indefinitely. Maintenance can also end when the recipient remarries or starts living with a new partner, or after a petition for modification once the recipient is able to support themself. In some cases, spousal maintenance may be awarded only temporarily during the divorce proceedings, and payments will stop once the case is final.

Myth: Spousal Maintenance Orders are Final

It is true that spousal maintenance orders are legally binding. However, that does not mean the terms are always set in stone. When a spouse experiences a significant change in circumstances, one of the parties can petition the court to modify the original order. For example, if the individual paying maintenance loses their job and can no longer afford to make these payments, they can ask the court to modify the order to reflect that change.


Wheaton spousal maintenance attorneyThose who are facing a divorce generally have many questions about both the process and what the future will look like after the divorce is finalized. One of the more common concerns is whether alimony is going to be a part of the divorce decree. In many situations, alimony—known as “maintenance” in Illinois—becomes a point of contention between the spouses. If a divorce is looking to be increasingly likely for you and your spouse, it is important to understand some basic things about spousal support in Illinois and when such support is awarded.

How Is Spousal Maintenance Used?

Spousal maintenance is intended to reduce the negative effects of a divorce on the lower-earning or otherwise financially disadvantaged party. Several decades ago, spousal support was a fairly standard part of many divorce cases. This was because most households typically relied on one spouse’s income—most often the husband—while the other partner—the wife, usually—worked significantly less or not at all. The spouse who worked less often focused on household and child-related responsibilities. When a couple in such a situation got a divorce, it was almost impossible for the spouse who earned less to support herself, particularly if she was awarded primary custody of the children. Therefore, it was common for a divorce decree to include an order for alimony to be paid by the higher-earning spouse, at least until the lower-earning spouse could support herself.

Spousal Support is Not Guaranteed

Today’s version of the typical marriage—if there is such a thing—looks much different than it did 50 years ago or even just 20 years ago. In many households, both spouses work full-time, either out of necessity or because both partners are invested in their careers. As a result, both spouses are often sufficiently equipped to support themselves in the event of a divorce. In recognition of changing social norms, Illinois law currently holds that there is no presumption that maintenance will be ordered in any divorce case. Instead, the court may order such support if the judge finds that maintenance is appropriate and there is no agreement in place between the spouses on the issue.


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