Those 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.
To establish whether you, as the higher-earning spouse, should be required to pay maintenance, the judge will look at a variety of factors, including:
Your income, resources, and earning capacity, as well as that of your spouse
Any impairments to either spouse’s ability to earn a living, including a lack of work experience due to a spouse’s role in the marriage and family
Each spouse’s current and anticipated needs
Whether it will be possible and how long it will take for your spouse to become self-supporting
The duration of the marriage, and the lifestyle you established during the marriage
Any contributions that your spouse made to your career and ability to earn income, including caring for the children or maintaining your marital home
Any other consideration the judge finds to be relevant
If the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, the amount of the payments must be calculated along with the intended duration of the order. Illinois law provides standard guidelines to be used in most cases, though exceptions to these guidelines are possible.
Contact a Wheaton Family Lawyer
To learn more about the divorce process in Illinois, including how the court decides whether to order spousal maintenance, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer. Call 630-871-1002 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled member of the team at Andrew Cores Family Law Group today. We can provide the guidance you need as you face the uncertainty of divorce.