New spousal maintenance, or alimony, guidelines put into effect by Illinois lawmakers were intended to make the formulas and guidelines used by family court judges in determining spousal maintenance amounts and payment periods uniform throughout the state. Before these changes to the law, judges had sole discretion over the methods used to determine maintenance awards, resulting in vastly different divorce settlement verdicts in cases across the state.
The new guidelines also provide that, in some cases, the court may designate a termination date as a permanent termination, instead of allowing a spouse to ask for additional maintenance at the end of the term. Fixed-term support is only permitted following the dissolution of marriages which lasted less than 10 years.
Court to Determine Appropriateness of Maintenance
With the new law into effect, the judge still needs to determine if a party is entitled to maintenance according to guidelines on Section 504(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Factors include the income of each party, marriage length, standard of living during the marriage, each party’s property ownership, and each party’s ability to earn a living currently and in the future.
Standard Calculation Formula Now Applies
In establishing an order for spousal support, the court will use a pre-set mathematical formula to determine the amount of maintenance payments. The time period for the maintenance to be paid is calculated by a multiplication factor based on the years of marriage.
Fixed-Term Maintenance A New Possibility
Before the new guidelines, previous statutes prevented a judge from terminating maintenance payments that were awarded for a fixed period without both parties’ consent. The court-ordered payments were always reviewable.
Now, under the new law, family courts have the authority to block the renewals of a fixed-term maintenance payment without requiring the consent of both parties. By doing so, the court looks to prevent unnecessary legal action following a relatively short marriage. When fixed-term maintenance is ordered, the receiving party cannot return and ask the court for an extension.
These new rules should make it easier to divorcing spouses to calculate maintenance awards in advance and be able to anticipate payments. In Illinois, a maintenance award can also be awarded temporarily at the beginning of the case, subject to change at the conclusion of the case. It also may be reviewed at a later set date or upon a significant change of circumstances of one or both parties.
For more information about the new state guidelines for fixed-term spousal support or any other maintenance or family law related questions please call 630-868-3093 to schedule your complimentary consultation with an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. We will review your case, answer your questions, and help you decide upon the best course of action.