March 19, 2015
It used to be that spousal support – also known as spousal maintenance or alimony – was a real guessing game in the state of Illinois. How a judge ruled on each individual case could vary greatly. Sometimes it would vary just from one courtroom to another. That meant that a divorce settlement could really go any way and that it was really up to the judge in charge of the case to decide how spousal maintenance was determined. However, that has all changed.
Thanks to several new guidelines regarding spousal support that have become law in the estate of Illinois, recently, the guessing game has largely been eliminated. On January 1 of this year, a new bill took affect that amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/504. The bill introduced a new formula for calculating and determining spousal maintenance for divorcing couples with a combined gross income of $250,000 or less. As mentioned, before the new law, judges would use several different measures in order to determine how much the spousal support bill would be. Now they should use these guidelines to determine the amount of maintenance based on the parties gross incomes and the length of their marriage.
Judges are not obligated to use the new formula to make their decision, but they do have to explain why they didn’t if they choose not to. So how does the new formula work? The payment amount awarded should be equal to 30 percent of the payer’s gross income. However, if the receiving spouse also works, then the payment amount should be 30 percent of the payer’s income minus 20 percent of the receiver’s gross income. The amount should not be more than 40 percent of both parties’ combined gross income, when added to the receiver’s gross income.
Here’s a hypothetical situation. If the husband has been ordered to pay spousal support and his gross income is $100,000, then 30 percent would be $30,000. If his wife’s gross income was $30,000, 20 percent of that is $6,000. Therefore, you subtract $6,000 from $30,000 and the husband would have to pay $24,000 in spousal maintenance. Or would he?
Because of the 40 percent cap, the $24,000 is too much. Here’s why. By adding the combined gross income of the two you get $130,000. 40 percent of that is $52,000. Because the wife already makes $30,000 on her own, the maximum she can receive is $22,000 a year. So that is how much the husband would have to pay in this scenario.
Meantime, the length of time the payments will last will now be determined by the duration of the marriage. If a couple was married for five years then the spousal support would last for 20 percent of that time period, in this case one year. However, spousal support could also be permanent or last as long as the marriage did if the marriage lasted for 20 years or more. In any case, a judge must still first determine if spousal maintenance is appropriate before using the new formula.
Do have question about spousal maintenance? Then contact the experienced team at the Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group at 312-445-8830, or click here. We understand how these new laws work and how they will affect you and your particular situation. Contact us today to make sure you don’t miss out on the spousal support you deserve.