What You Need to Know About Spousal Maintenance
Divorce can be a messy affair, even when both parties work together amicably and with a Chicago divorce lawyer they trust. There are a number of services, accounts and assets that need to be split as fairly as possible to avoid financial mistakes. If one spouse makes significantly more than the other, he or she might even be required to pay maintenance (or alimony) to the ex-spouse.
What is Spousal Maintenance?
Maintenance is known by several names, including “alimony,” or “spousal support.” No matter the terminology, they all mean the same thing. During or after divorce proceedings, if there is a significant difference in the income and earning potential between the separating spouses, a judge may order the more prosperous spouse to contribute to the other’s expenses.
The purpose of maintenance is to minimize the financial effects of a divorce, especially for spouses who may have chosen to forgo professional experience in order to support the family. Theoretically, both parties should be able to maintain the same standard of living they had during marriage.
How is Spousal Maintenance Determined?
As of January 1, 2019, spousal maintenance is calculated by deducting 25% of the payee’s net income from 33-1/3% of the payor’s net annual income. The amount of alimony awarded to the payee must be less than 40% of both parties’ combined net income. For more information on how alimony is determined, alimony duration, and alimony amounts, refer to our 2019 spousal maintenance overview.
Other Factors the Courts Consider
If the guidelines used to calculate spousal maintenance do not apply, the court will consider at least some of the following factors when making its decision about awarding maintenance:
- Age/physical condition, emotional health and financial situation of the former spouses
- How long the potential recipient would need before becoming self-sufficient
- The length of the marriage
- The spouses’ standard of living during the marriage
- How much the paying spouse would be able to contribute while still supporting themselves
Does the Payor Have to Pay?
Maintenance enforcement is not as aggressive as child support enforcement, which can include actions like garnishing wages. However, an official maintenance court order is still legally enforced. If your spouse refuses to pay, for any reason, you can take immediate legal action by returning to court for a contempt proceeding or filing a Notice of Withholding and serve it on the payor’s employer.
A spouse paying maintenance is often required to give as much money as they could potentially provide or reasonably earn, even if they are underemployed. For example, if a spouse who makes $100,000 a year decides to quit his or her job and find a position that pays only $70,000, a judge might decide to base the maintenance payment on the $100,000 salary. Even though the spouse would be making less, he or she is physically able to secure a higher paying position and is expected to provide for the ex-spouse based on that amount – this is known as the imputation of income. For more examples of imputation of income, refer to our in-depth guide.
Spousal and Family Law in Chicago & Oak Park, Illinois
At Conniff & Keleher, LLC, we believe your attorney should be invested in your family’s welfare. We understand that your domestic circumstances are unique, and your legal strategy should reflect that. Our expert attorneys have years of experience in divorce, parentage, and premarital cases. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a case review with an Oak Park or Chicago divorce lawyer.