When you are going through a divorce, you are faced with a host of financial issues. Often, spousal support can be a big question - will the court require one spouse to provide the other with ongoing financial assistance once their divorce is final? Until recently, it was up to the judge to make this decision on a case-by-case basis, after considering a variety of factors set out in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In an effort to make spousal support awards more consistent, however, the Illinois legislature updated the law, establishing a specific mathematical formula for calculating the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance award.
Will Courts Always Use This Formula Now?
Do these new guidelines simplify the process? Do they actually reduce an attorney’s role to plugging numbers into a calculator? Likely not. First off, the formula only applies after the court determines that spousal maintenance is appropriate at all. In addition, your case must meet the following two conditions:
- The combined gross income of both parties cannot exceed $250,000; and
- The spouse expected to pay support cannot already have an existing obligation to pay spousal and/or child support from a previous marriage.
Consequently, you are still better off relying on a good attorney to argue for (or against) an award of spousal maintenance, taking into account the statutory factors that have always been considered in maintenance awards. Among others, these factors include:
- The length of the marriage;
- Each party’s income and property;
- Each party’s needs;
- Each party’s present and future earnings capacity; and
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
The difference now is that once the court concludes, based upon these factors, that an award is warranted, the formula calculates both its amount and duration. Of course, your lawyer can still argue that the judge should deviate from the guidelines if your particular case requires it.
What about Child Support?
More worrisome, a spousal maintenance award under the new guidelines can have the practical effect of reducing the amount of child support. This is because the statute specifies that the amount of maintenance awarded should be deducted from the paying spouse’s net income when calculating child support. Whether a financial award is classified as spousal or child support is significant for tax purposes, because tax law treats spousal and child support differently. An attorney’s help can be invaluable in detangling the ramifications of the various kinds of awards.
Get Legal Guidance
Our experienced DuPage County divorce attorneys understand that going through a divorce can be difficult and overwhelming. The best way to navigate this process is with the help of one of our experienced family professionals. If you or your spouse is contemplating divorce, please contact us today.