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How much maintenance can I receive in Illinois?

Going through a divorce in Illinois can take a huge toll on both spouses’ financial stability. Between paying attorney fees and learning to live on a single income rather than the combination of two, many divorcees find that they are unable to make ends meet. When this is the case for one spouse, a judge may order that the other spouse provide financial support.

In the past, the amount of maintenance that could be ordered by the courts was based solely upon the determinations of a judge. Upcoming changes to Illinois legislation provide formulas that judges may use when deciding how much support should be paid to the financially-weaker spouse and for how long.

Determining maintenance amounts

After making the decision that maintenance is appropriate, a judge can utilize the new formula to calculate how much the paying spouse is required to pay. When determining maintenance in Illinois, the award should equal 30 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income, minus 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s gross income. However, that amount may not exceed 40 percent of the combined gross income of both spouses. If the difference is more than 40 percent, the judge must reduce the amount to be below the cap. 

Determining maintenance duration

The length of the marriage before a divorce is the determining factor for courts ruling upon the duration of spousal maintenance. This is calculated by multiplying the marriage length by a set percentage that is larger for longer marriages. For example, maintenance for a marriage of less than five years is only required for 20 percent of the total length, while maintenance for a marriage lasting up to 20 years would be ordered for 80 percent of the total length. In cases where a marriage lasted 20 years or more, a judge may order permanent marriage or a maintenance period equal to the total length of the marriage.

Deviations from the new guidelines

Judges in Illinois are not required to follow the newly-passed guidelines, but are required to explain why they would choose not to. In some cases, a judge may conclude that the amount or duration of maintenance calculated with the formulas is not appropriate. Past maintenance cases have varied greatly, leaving judges to make unpredictable awards on a case-by-case basis. The new guidelines are meant to serve as a reference point to promote consistency when possible.

The maintenance process can be complicated, leading many divorcing couples to seek legal assistance. A divorce attorney can answer the complex questions that may arise throughout divorce proceedings.

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