Understanding Spousal Maintenance
Maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is a court order that requires one party to make payments to the other either during the divorce proceedings or at its conclusion. Maintenance is intended to help the financially dependent spouse maintain a similar standard of living after the separation as they received during the course of the marriage.
How A Court Decides If Maintenance Is Appropriate
A dependent party will not automatically be awarded maintenance. Instead, a court will look to numerous factors to determine whether or not a maintenance award is appropriate. Some of these factors include:
- the income and assets of each party
- the needs of each party
- the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party
- the present and future earning capacity of each party
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the duration of the marriage
- the age and physical health of each party
How A Maintenance Award Is Calculated
If a court determines that a maintenance award is appropriate, the general formula used in calculating the maintenance amount is 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the recipient’s gross income. However, the total maintenance amount cannot exceed 40% of both parties’ gross incomes.
For example, suppose spouse one has been ordered to pay maintenance to spouse two. Spouse one earns $200,000 per year and spouse two’s gross income is $50,000. Thirty percent of spouse one’s income is $60,000 while 20% of spouse two’s income is $10,000. The maintenance award would be $50,000. The combined gross income of both spouses is $250,000. Forty percent of the combined income is $100,000. The maintenance amount is suitable since the $50,000 maintenance award is less than $100,000.
How The Duration Of A Maintenance Award Is Determined
In Illinois, the length of a maintenance award is determined by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies:
- 20 for a marriage of 5 years of less
- 40 for more than 5 years but less than 10
- 60 for more than 10 years but less than 15
- 80 for more than 15 years but less than 20
The court has the discretion to order a permanent maintenance award if marriage is more than 20 years.
This means that if a couple was married for eight years, then the recipient of maintenance would be entitled to receive it for 3.2 years (8 times 0.40).