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The Maintenance Formula in an Illinois Divorce

The Maintenance Formula in an Illinois Divorce

In January of 2015, Illinois laws began to include language that spells out the formula for spousal maintenance in divorce cases. Prior to the creation of this formula, judges were given discretion in determining the amount and duration of maintenance to be awarded in Illinois divorce cases. While there were specific factors that judges were required to take into consideration when making a determination as to whether maintenance should be awarded at all, there were no standard guidelines or mathematical formulas to aid in calculating the payment amounts or duration.

Factors Considered When Determining Alimony

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act still states that judges should use those same factors to evaluate the need for spousal maintenance in the state, but the new formula is designed to make the calculation process more standardized and predictable. Once the judge has decided whether a spouse should be entitled to spousal maintenance, the new formula must be used to determine the amount, and the duration of payments that will be awarded.

The factors that judges consider include the duration of the marriage, the income of both spouses, the standard of living that was established during the marriage, any property held by each spouse, the needs of each party, the ability of each individual to earn an income both now and in the future, each party’s health, whether one spouse forwent career opportunities or advancement in his or her education to stay home, and how long it will take that individual to obtain the job training or education necessary to become self-sufficient.

How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Illinois?

The new formula is only used when the combined gross income of the individuals is less than $250,000.

Determining the Duration of Spousal Maintenance

Prior to these changes, the duration of maintenance was left up to the judge. To determine the length of time that maintenance will be paid under the new law, the following formula is used:

  • For marriages lasting 0-5 years, the duration is 20 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • In marriages that lasted 5-10 years, the duration is 40 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • Those that lasted 10-15 years require a duration of 60 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • For marriages that lasted 15-20 years, it is 80 percent of the length of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting more than 20 years can either result in a permanent maintenance award or an award that is equal in duration to to length of the marriage.

As an example, for a marriage that lasted 14 years, maintenance would be awarded for 8.4 years. (14 x 0.60 = 8.4)

Determining the Amount of Support to Be Awarded

To determine the amount of spousal support that will be awarded, the courts subtract 20 percent of the receiver’s income from 30 percent of the payer’s income. For example, assume that the payer has a gross income of $100,000, and the receiver has a gross income of $10,000. Thirty percent of the payer’s income would be $30,000. Twenty percent of the receiver’s income equals $2,000. So $2,000 would be subtracted from $30,000, and the receiver would be awarded $28,000 in spousal maintenance.

This formula is only used when the receiver’s income plus the amount calculated in the formula is equal to less than 40 percent of the combined gross income of both parties. As an example, presume that the payer’s gross income is $100,000 and the receiver’s income is $50,000. Thirty percent of the payer’s income is $30,000, and twenty percent of the receiver’s income is $10,000. Under the original formula, the receiver would have been awarded $20,000 in spousal maintenance per year.

However, since $20,000 plus $50,000 is more than 40 percent of the combined gross income for both parties, the amount awarded is reduced accordingly. ($100,000 + $50,000 = $150,000 x 0.40 = $60,000 and $20,000 + $50,000 = $70,000. $70,000 > $60,000.) The receiving spouse will then be awarded $10,000 each year so that his or her total income does not exceed 40 percent of the couple’s combined gross income.

The Spousal Maintenance Formula and Post Decree Situations

Since the judge’s discretion was used to calculate the amount and duration of an award in the past, the spousal maintenance formula might have little impact on the amount of support that will be awarded in some post divorce cases, and it may have a drastic impact on others. Individuals who were divorced prior to the development of the guidelines that attend a maintenance review could see significant increases or decreases in the new amounts awarded, or they could see no changes at all. The new formula, however, will make it easier for a DuPage divorce lawyer to estimate the amount of alimony that will likely be awarded.

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