Alimony is now called “maintenance” in Illinois. Whether or not alimony will be a component in a divorce depends on a number of factors. Judges typically look a the incomes of the spouses, as well as, future earning potential of both spouses. The manner by which the assets will be allocated could also be an important factor. Generally, if you (or your spouse) have been dependent on the other’s income, some sort of maintenance may be a component of the divorce.
The length of marriage is also something that the judges consider. For example, if you earn $10,000 per year, and your spouse earns $200,000 per year. While this may look like a “alimony case”, it may not be when the marriage is only 6 months, or maybe 12 months. Naturally, the longer the marriage, the more likely a scenario like this would entail some sort of alimony payment. The old rule was that generally once the maintenance payment was set (usually a monthly amount), a spouse would pay that sum for a period of time equal to 1/3 of the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 21 years, you may expect that some form of alimony would be paid for about 7 years.
However, some Judges in 2012 have been utilizing a formula to calculate maintenance. The formula was developed by a group of divorce lawyers for the Illinois State Bar Association. This formula is NOT the law, but it appears that the formula is getting popular because of its ease of use and application. The formula may become law in the near future, but time will tell. What’s important to you, is that the formula is used, despite the fact that it’s not yet law.
The new maintenance formula takes 30% of the gross income of the higher income earning spouse, and subtracts 20% of the gross income of the lower income earning spouse. The result would be the annual alimony amount to be paid from the higher income earner to the lower income earner. For example, if one spouse earned $100,000 and the other spouse earned $30,000, the maintenance amount would be 30% of $100,000 (which is$30,000), minus 20% of $30,000 (which is $6,000) = $24,000 in annual maintenance (or $2,000 per month).
This formula has some collateral components to it as well. First, the duration of payment is also formulaic. Duration would be calculated by multiplying the duration of the marriage by (0.2) for marriages up to 5 years, (0.4) for marriages 5-10 years, (0.6) for marriages 10-15 years, and (0.8) for marriages 15-20 years in length. For example a 12 year marriage, multiplied by 0.4 would equal payments for 4.8 years. Additionally, maintenance payments pursuant to this formula are allowable deductions for the purposes of calculating child support, which is covered in the child support page of this website.
Spouses should be mindful that the formula noted above is currently NOT the law, and Judges approach the setting of maintenance in all sorts of ways. Many factors go into the setting of maintenance and whether or not maintenance would be allowed. When it comes to maintenance, there is no substitute for meeting with a skilled and experienced divorce lawyer. Only then, will you get an accurate picture of what is going to happen in your divorce.