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Spousal Support in Divorce: The New Law in Illinois

A new law in Illinois as of January 1, 2015 changes how spousal support is determined for divorcing couples whose combined gross income is less than $250,000. This new law raises some interesting issues with respect to the global finances of divorce, so let’s examine briefly the new law of spousal support in Illinois.

The law, which was developed by the Illinois State Bar’s Family Law Section Council, creates a protocol for calculating maintenance based on the income of the parties and the length of the marriage. The law that has been in use for years essentially placed a high degree of discretion with the trial judge; parties to divorce sometimes had very little guidance as to what a given judge would award for maintenance, or if any award was to be granted.

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Under the new law, a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s ( the one who pays maintenance) gross income minus 20 percent of the payee’s (recipient) gross income, not to exceed 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the payee’s gross. Where the parties both earn higher incomes, there is a threshold percentage that “caps” the award at no more than 40 percent of the combined incomes. Longer marriages benefit from longer terms of maintenance; shorter term marriages see a lesser time period involved.

Sound complicated? The new law was intended to create a formula that judges could apply in maintenance cases that would allow for predictability and relative “fairness” from county to county. Judges still have some discretion in these matters, though I will expect that many judges will start to follow the formula by rote. Judges that use a lot of creativity in their discretion sometimes get appealed by the offended party, and so the nature of many judges will be to adhere to the new formula.

If you’re considering filing for divorce, and have questions about the financial issues in divorce (maintenance, child support, division of property) contact my law office at (630) 232-2400 to make an initial consultation. I’ll help you navigate the landscape of the new maintenance statute, and any other concerns you may have about your divorce case.