One would think the answer to this question would be “yes.” Married people typically share expenses, at least informally. Usually, however, the answer to this question is “no,” and there are two main reasons for this response.
Alimony orders are directed at individual obligors, not the obligors and their family members. A new spouse has no legal obligation to pay spousal support to someone she never married. Additionally, remarriage is an expected change. According to the United States Census Bureau, 80% of divorced people remarry, usually within five years. Generally, only unexpected emotional or financial changes support successful motions to modify.
Spousal support laws have changed a lot in Illinois since the mid-2010s. State law changed in 2016, and federal law changed in 2019.
In this new legal environment, both obligors (people paying spousal support) and obligees (spousal support recipients) have important legal and financial rights. Bolingbrook alimony attorneys stand up for these rights, in court, and around a negotiating table. In most cases, the final result is a compromise that doesn’t make either spouse happy but is something both spouses can live with.
As outlined below, it’s rather difficult to modify existing spousal support orders. So, it’s important to get things right the first time. Above all, it’s a mistake for an obligee to assume that the obligor’s remarriage means a payment increase, so accepting a little less at the outset is acceptable.
It’s also a mistake to assume that the judge automatically awards spousal support in Illinois. First, the court must determine that “a maintenance award is appropriate,” after considering factors like:
In some cases, these same factors determine the amount and duration of payments. In most cases, however, that’s not true.
If the spouses earn less than $500,000 per year, combined, the obligor isn’t subject to a previous child and/or spousal support order, and the marriage lasted less than twenty years, a rather complex formula determines the duration and amount of payments. Those are three pretty big “ifs.” Therefore, the alimony formula, which was the subject of considerable debate, often doesn’t apply.
The formula approach was controversial because it takes the amount and duration decision out of the hands of the judge, who hears the facts of the case, and places it in the hands of a bureaucrat, who knows nothing about the case or the people involved in it. Several other states have adopted similar guideline-based spousal support laws. Several other states have rejected such efforts.
The formula, if it applies, uses a percentage of income differential to determine the number of payments. A multiplier based on the length of the marriage, up to twenty years, controls the duration of payments. Much like the child support formula, the spousal support formula is presumptively reasonable, once again if it applies to the facts of the case.
A prior Family Support Obligation order often transfers cases from the formula cubbyhole to the non-formula cubbyhole. The divorce rate has declined in recent years, but it’s still twice as high as it was a generation earlier. Disqualifying income is the second most common reason. The average household income in Chicago is a little under $100,000 per year. So, 500k is high, but certainly not astronomically high.
If the formula doesn’t apply, the judge uses basically the same factors mentioned above to determine the amount and duration of payments.
Essentially, the amount of payments is a balance between the obligee’s economic need and the obligor’s ability to pay.
As for duration, judges usually order temporary, extended, or long-term alimony. Temporary spousal support helps obligees pay attorneys’ fees, rental deposits, and other divorce-related bills. Extended alimony often allows obligees to finish their degrees or take other necessary steps to achieve self-sufficiency. Long-term alimony is usually only available if the obligee has a disability that precludes self-sufficiency.
A judge could modify, or even terminate, payments upon remarriage. But as mentioned above, the obligor’s remarriage doesn’t matter. In this case, we’re talking about the obligee’s remarriage.
The obligee’s remarriage has roughly the same effect on alimony payments as a child’s graduation from high school has on child support payments. The difference is that, in some cases, child support payments continue past this point. Alimony payments, on the other hand, will terminate as a matter of law.
Things get a bit tricky if the obligee forms a marriage-like romantic relationship with another person. Such a relationship could terminate spousal support payments if the romantic relationship is long-term and includes some financial ties as well.
Judges can also modify, or even terminate, payments if financial circumstances change for either spouse. Significant changes aren’t uncommon. Perhaps the obligee gets a good job almost immediately or perhaps the obligor gets downsized.
Several future changes can affect alimony payments, but the obligor’s remarriage isn’t one of these changes. If you have questions about alimony payments, Keller Legal Services welcomes you to come in for a free consultation with an experienced Bolingbrook alimony attorney. To schedule your free consultation, contact Keller Legal Services at 630-505-1515. We routinely handle matters throughout Chicagoland.