Despite the beliefs of many, spousal support—also called maintenance—is not a given in Illinois divorce cases. It must be shown affirmatively why such payments would be necessary, with all the attendant proof. It is also not to be confused with child support, which is a duty owed to the child, not the former spouse. The rationale by which many judges order spousal support may seem confusing, but it can be better understood if one examines the wider picture in a divorce context.
Multiple Factors Determine Awards
The relevant statute on spousal support in Illinois states that it may be awarded, without regard to marital misconduct, after the court has examined and weighed all the relevant factors as to whether or not an award is appropriate. Most of the time, if maintenance is granted, it is to remedy a deficiency in one spouse’s earnings or earning potential. For example, if one spouse was the primary breadwinner during the marriage, and the other stayed at home to raise the children, the homemaker spouse will be more likely to receive maintenance because he or she has been out of the workforce for years and may need to refresh their training or knowledge.
Questions of whether or not to order support are rarely so clear-cut, however. Usually, a judge will examine the list of relevant considerations and balance them appropriately. Other factors in maintenance determinations (besides the sacrifice of one spouse for the other’s career) include:
- The needs and earning potential (current and future) of each spouse;
- The duration of the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage;
- Whether or not either spouse has an additional source of income;
- Any valid argument made by the parties, such as a prenuptial agreement; and
- Any other factor that the court “finds to be just and equitable.”
When Does Maintenance End?
Most of the time, if spousal support is granted, it will be granted for a specific period of time, usually according to the formula listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In some rare occasions, temporary maintenance will be awarded for the duration of proceedings, especially if one spouse has no other income, but most spousal support awards are for months or years, depending on the length of the marriage.
Spousal support payments will end when one spouse either dies or remarries. However, they may also end if you or your ex-spouse is found to be cohabitating with another person. Cohabitation is not merely having a roommate or living with a friend; it is living with another person on a “resident, continuing, conjugal basis.” The relationship need not be a sexual one, but the two people must be living together as a couple—for example, sharing a bank account, spending holidays together, or naming each other on life insurance policies or in wills. If the two people are found to have a “de facto husband and wife” relationship, it is generally grounds to have maintenance payments to that person terminated.
Need Help Getting Through Your Divorce?
Because spousal support is not mandatory, the question of whether or not it will be granted is an important one that can affect both your finances and those of your ex-spouse. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can help ease the burden during your divorce proceedings. Contact our passionate DuPage County spousal support lawyers today to set up an initial appointment.