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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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Naperville If you are receiving spousal maintenance, you probably know—or, at least, assume—that your former spouse’s financial obligations to you will end in that event you ever get remarried. It only makes sense. When you get remarried, you become financially interdependent with your new spouse, all but making your ex all but irrelevant—children’s needs notwithstanding. Depending on your situation and your desires, however, you may be inclined to shy away from marriage for a time after your divorce, as your last formal commitment may have soured you a bit on the institution. As an alternative to getting married, you may decide to move in with your new partner, but you should know that, in most cases, cohabitation is grounds for ending spousal maintenance as well.

Growing Trend

Evolving social mores and more liberal views on interpersonal relationships have led to an increasing number of unmarried couples living together. Many choose the arrangement as a precursor to marriage, while others are content to remain cohabiting indefinitely. While sociologists and religious authorities continue to debate the morality of cohabitation, legal systems around the country have been forced to contend with the changing concepts of household and family.

The Law Regarding Cohabitation

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, your rights to spousal maintenance end when you cohabit “with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.” If you are found to be living with your new partner in a relationship that meets the provisions of the law and have continued to receive maintenance, you will probably be required to reimburse your ex-spouse. Case law over the years have made it clear that a normal roommate arrangement would not jeopardize your eligibility for continued maintenance. On the other hand, what most people consider “living with their girlfriend or boyfriend” would almost certainly be seen by the court as justification for ending support.

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Naperville family law attorneysAn order for spousal maintenance, or spousal support, in a divorce is issued on a need-based review of each individual case. There is no presumption that one spouse or the other will be required to pay spousal support. Spousal support, though less common than in previous generations, is still awarded in many divorce cases to help alleviate the financial burden of the divorce on an economically disadvantaged spouse. Once the final divorce judgment is entered, the spousal support order becomes enforceable by law and the supporting spouse must comply or face court sanctions. But what about during the divorce? Can spousal maintenance be ordered while the proceedings are still ongoing?

Temporary Orders

The simple answer is yes. Spousal support can be ordered by the court before the final divorce judgment is entered, but the order takes a somewhat different form. The process for obtaining a temporary maintenance order is different as well.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (720 ILCS 5) provides that either party in a divorce may request temporary spousal maintenance via a motion and a financial affidavit. The affidavit is a sworn (or affirmed) statement that lays out a party’s current financial situation, including all income, debts, and expenses. When filing, the spouse must also include supporting documentation such as tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and others as appropriate. The court will also take into account the current arrangements regarding parenting time and parental responsibilities.

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Naperville Family Law Firm

If you were a stay-at-home mom or dad during your marriage, and your spouse was the primary source of family income, divorce can present a unique set of challenges. Stay-at-home parents frequently forego education and career opportunities for years and even decades so they can raise children and take care of daily household duties. After a divorce, these parents find themselves re-entering the job market, many with little-to-no work experience and substantial gaps in employment.

Although spousal maintenance (formerly called spousal support or alimony in Illinois) is an option, is it something a divorced stay-at-home parent can expect?

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