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Naperville divorce attorneyOriginally posted: October 16, 2017 -- Updated: 11.9.2021

Changes to federal tax laws in 2019 changed the way that spousal support is taxed in Illinois and throughout the U.S. Before 2019, spousal maintenance payments were tax-deductible for the payor. The recipient spouse could claim alimony or spousal support payments as taxable as income. Presently, spousal maintenance is not deductible from the income of the payer spouse. Additionally, the receiving spouse cannot include maintenance payments as income on their taxes.

Divorce can have a massive financial impact - especially when a divorcing spouse is dependent on their soon-to-be-ex-’s income. The purpose of spousal support or spousal maintenance is to offset the negative financial impact of divorce. Maintenance payments can give a stay-at-home parent or non-working spouse time to gain the job skills or education needed to be financially independent.

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Wheaton spousal support attorneyAlimony refers to financial support that a spouse pays to a financially-dependent spouse after the couple’s divorce. These payments, which are referred to as “spousal maintenance” in Illinois law, are typically awarded when there is a major disparity in income between the spouses. Many spouses require financial support in the form of alimony because they gave up career advancements in favor of homemaking or child-rearing responsibilities. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to place both spouses in financial circumstances similar to what they enjoyed while they were married after they get divorced.

Alimony May Be Temporary, Permanent, or Rehabilitative

Divorce cases can take multiple months or even several years to complete. Some spouses request temporary alimony while the divorce is ongoing. Temporary alimony typically terminates when the divorce is finalized and the spouses become subject to the terms of the final divorce decree.

Maintenance awarded in the divorce decree may be ordered for a specific time period, or it may be indefinite.  Spousal maintenance is often intended to be rehabilitative in nature. These types of alimony payments give the recipient spouse time to secure the education, training, and/or employment he or she needs to be self-supporting. In a minority of cases, alimony is permanent and only terminates once the recipient remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner, or either spouse passes away.

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DuPage County divorce attorney spousal maintenance

Although it occurred slightly over one year ago, it is worth understanding the changes that Illinois made to its spousal maintenance law on January 1, 2019. The law controls not just how a court can determine whether or not one spouse is owed maintenance payments from the other, but how to choose the duration and amounts of those payments. Even if you have the help of an experienced divorce attorney to guide you through the divorce process, it could benefit you to understand whether to expect a court to rule in favor of maintenance payments for you or your spouse. 

2019 Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law

Before deciding whether spousal maintenance applies in a divorce, the court must consider many factors, all of which are detailed in the 2019 Illinois spousal maintenance law:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_gavel-money-alimony-maintenance.jpgDepending upon the circumstances surrounding your marriage and divorce, you may feel that you should be entitled to spousal maintenance payments from your ex-spouse. Unlike child support, spousal support is not presumed to be appropriate in every situation. Instead, Illinois law requires each case to be weighed on its own merits to determine if the need for such supports actually exists. This means that, if you think you deserve to receive maintenance, you may need to explicitly request consideration for it.

Marital Misconduct Not a Factor

Unless you and your spouse included behavior clauses in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the court will not consider the conduct of either party when deciding whether to award maintenance. While your spouse’s behavior may leave you feeling like he or she owes you some type of restitution, the law in Illinois specifically prohibits marital misconduct from being a factor in maintenance proceedings. Spousal support is meant to help you meet your financial needs and obligations. It is not intended to be used as a punitive measure against your spouse.

Decreased Earning Potential

While the law does not allow support to be awarded on the basis of infidelity or marital misconduct, other factors in your relationship can affect the proceedings in your favor. If your role in the marriage or as a parent has impaired your ability to reach your full earning potential, your chances of being awarded of support may be better.

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Naperville alimony attorneysIn some divorce cases, one of the spouses is entitled to spousal maintenance, or alimony. Maintenance is typically ordered when one spouse is left at a significant financial disadvantage by divorce or when a valid prenuptial agreement stipulates spousal maintenance arrangements. Whether you are a payor or recipient of spousal maintenance, you may have many questions about how long payments will last. Spousal maintenance is often temporary, but there are some cases in which long term or permanent maintenance is ordered. Read on to learn more.

Spousal Support Laws in Illinois  

When determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, Illinois courts consider several factors including but not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s income and assets
  • Each spouse’s present and future earning capacity
  • Any impairment to a spouse’s earning capacity
  • Contributions a spouse made to the advancement of the other spouse’s career or education
  • The time needed for the recipient spouse to obtain job training or education necessary to become gainfully employed
  • Each spouse’s age, physical health, and mental well-being

If a prenuptial agreement or similar marital agreement does not address spousal maintenance, the duration of spousal maintenance payments is typically based on statutory guidelines. If the combined income of the spouses is less than $500,000, the duration of spousal maintenance is determined by the number of years the couple was married. The longer the marriage, the longer the maintenance payments last. In divorce cases involving marriages of 20 years or more, the court may order permanent spousal maintenance or maintenance for a term equal to the length of the marriage.

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