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What Is Alimony in Chicago?

One question that frequently arises during divorce in Chicago is, “What is alimony?” Alimony, also called spousal maintenance, is a court-ordered payment made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. It’s intended to help maintain the accustomed standard of living. Alimony is gender-neutral and based on considerations such as standard of living, needs, income, and length of the marriage. These payments can be modified or terminated in several scenarios.

Alimony Laws in Illinois

The alimony laws in Illinois are flexible enough to allow for a range of situations. While the law provides guidelines, final decisions rest with judges.

Types of Alimony in Illinois

Illinois has three major types of alimony: fixed-term, indefinite, and reviewable. With fixed-term alimony, the court sets the term of payments.

With indefinite alimony, there is no termination date, but certain events can result in modification or termination. They include either party’s death, the payee’s remarriage, or the payee living with another person on a continuing conjugal basis.

With reviewable alimony, the court grants alimony for a specific period with a review. Changes may occur with the review.

What Is the Purpose of Alimony?

A major purpose of alimony is to help a lower earning spouse maintain the accustomed standard of living while the person adjusts to financial independence after the dissolution of the marriage.

Incorporating information about possible alimony in your Illinois divorce checklist can be helpful if you’re considering a split, regardless of the reasons.

How Is Alimony Calculated in Illinois?

The courts in Chicago and Des Plaines calculate the need for alimony (entitlement to maintenance) on factors such as each party’s income and financial obligations, needs, current and future income capacity, health, disabilities, parental responsibility arrangements, the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the spouses’ ages, any prenuptial agreements or other valid agreements, and how long it would take one spouse to obtain the training or education to aid in self-sufficiency. Each factor does not have to receive equal weight.

Another consideration is the assets each spouse has. That is one reason it is important to know how to find hidden assets in a divorce. For example, when one spouse hides assets, he or she may end up unfairly paying or receiving alimony.

The law states that alimony, “shall be calculated by taking 33 1/3% of the payor’s net annual income minus 25% of the payee’s net annual income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the net income of the payee, shall not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined net income of the parties.”

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Under Illinois guidelines, alimony length, “shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage at the time the action was commenced by whichever of the following factors apply:

  • less than 5 years (.20)
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24)
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28)
  • 7 years or more, but less than 8 years (.32)
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36)
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40)”

In other words, for marriages lasting three years, alimony lasts for 20% of the marriage’s length. For unions of nine years, alimony lasts 40% of that period.

There are specific guidelines for each year of marriage up until 20 years. For example, if you were married 15 years or more but less than 16 years, the length of alimony is (.64) times the marriage length.

For marriages lasting 20 or more years, alimony could last as long as the marriage did or indefinitely.

When does alimony start? Alimony usually begins from the date the court orders it, but it can be retroactive sometimes. Temporary alimony may occur before a divorce is finalized, too.

Can Alimony Be Modified or Terminated in Chicago or Des Plaines?

A lot can change in just a few months, not to mention over many years. It is possible to modify or terminate maintenance in several circumstances.

It occurs for four main reasons: the date the court set for alimony to end arrives, the payee spouse gets remarried or moves in with a new partner, one of the parties dies, or either party experiences a significant change in financial circumstances.

It can be tricky to prove a change in circumstances, though. The changes must be significant enough and not done with the intent of dodging obligations or hoping to receive more alimony.

How a Divorce Lawyer Can Help You Prove a Substantial Change in Circumstances

Financial circumstances can change due to retirement, disability, job loss, inheritances, job demotions or promotions, and additional child support or maintenance obligations, among others. It can be either party seeking to change alimony (to increase or decrease payments). A spousal maintenance lawyer can help in several important ways.

For instance, if you are paying alimony and your ex receives a large inheritance that sets the stage for self-sufficiency, your lawyer can help prove that.

Likewise, if you lose your job and find a new one that pays less, a lawyer can conduct a financial analysis and help you gather evidence showing a change in circumstances. The lawyer can assist you in showing that you did not quit the job to escape paying alimony. (Doing this is not a good idea and can result in you having to pay the original amounts of alimony plus fines, penalties, and interest.)

If possible, try to enlist a lawyer’s help before the changes occur. If you get three months’ notice of job severance, the earlier you get going on trying to modify payments, the better.

In family court, your lawyer can explain these substantial changes and why they warrant modifying or ending maintenance. It may not be necessary to battle alimony out in court. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate with your ex’s lawyer and reach a fair agreement that reflects the changes.

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois.

Years of Experience: Approx. 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illiois Courts Northern District of Illinois Federal Courts Illinois State Bar Association Chicago Bar Association
One Hundred Dollar Bills.

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois.

Years of Experience: Approx. 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illiois Courts Northern District of Illinois Federal Courts Illinois State Bar Association Chicago Bar Association

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