Under the New Illinois Law - How Long Can I Expect to Pay Alimony or Maintenance in My Illinois Divorce?

Hinsdale divorce attorneys, pay alimony or maintenanceIn January 2015, a new law was passed in Illinois. For the first time, a standardized formula for alimony, now called “maintenance,” as well as how long you are ordered to pay maintenance, was provided.

The Formula

The new maintenance law provides Illinois divorce Judges with guideline formulas to apply in determining the amount of maintenance that you pay, as well as for the length of time it should be paid. These formulas apply to divorcing couples whose combined gross incomes do not exceed $250,000.

Under the previous law, Illinois divorce judges ordered maintenance by looking at a list of general factors to consider, including a catch all of "any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable."These factors were far from the universal mathematical calculation that the new maintenance law provides, and often led to wildly varying results in cases with similar financial situations.

Here is how it works now:

  1. The Illinois divorce judge decides if maintenance is appropriate in your divorce case;
  2. The judge then must decide the amount of maintenance you are required to pay; and
  3. The judge finally decides by separate formula, based on the length of the your marriage, how long you must pay maintenance. (See chart below.)

For example, if you were married for 5 years, you would be ordered to pay your spouse for 20 percent of length of your marriage, which is one year of maintenance. A marriage of eight years would use a factor of 40 percent of the length of the marriage for maintenance for 3.2 years. (See our chart for the formula in simple form below.)

However, to our surprise, the new Illinois maintenance law of January 1, 2015 had no definition of "length of marriage." A marriage begins when the marriage ceremony takes place, assuming that the parties also had a valid marriage license.

Still, how do you determine when the marriage ends for maintenance purposes?

The end date of marriage was not set forth in the January 1, 2015 law. The end of the length of the marriage could arguably have been the date the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage was entered by the Illinois divorce judge. In point of law, a marriage stays in effect for purposes of inheritance, child custody, valuing of assets, and many other reasons, until the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered by the court.

On the other hand, using the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage as the end date would have created a problem for those cases that stay in the courthouse a long time and perhaps take a year, or several years, to be completed. For example, and unscrupulous spouse, seeking to receive the greatest amount of maintenance possible, and for the longest time, could intentionally prolong the divorce case in order to receive a longer period of maintenance under the length of time formula by using the end date as the date the divorce is entered.

Finally, on July 1, 2015, the Illinois legislature acted and voted in SB 57—a new set of divorce laws which included when a marriage ends when calculating the length of maintenance to be ordered.

The end date of the marriage in Illinois for maintenance is now the date of filing a divorce case in a Circuit Court of Illinois. The only problem is that SB 57 does not take effect until January 1, 2016. However, it is this author’s opinion that Illinois divorce judges will use the end date as the divorce filing date for the duration of maintenance despite the “end date” rule not taking effect until January 1, 2016.

Practice Tips: Illinois Maintenance Under the New Illinois Maintenance Law—What you should be aware of under the new Illinois maintenance law and the length of time of maintenance formula.

  • If you are receiving Illinois maintenance, be sure to file a Petition for Temporary Maintenance while your case is pending since you will lose maintenance under the formula for the length of time that the divorce case goes on. The filing of the divorce case stops the clock’s length of time calculation of maintenance.

  • If you are paying Illinois maintenance, once your spouse files for dissolution of your marriage, be sure to file a Counter Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If your Spouse is seeking maintenance from you and decides to dismiss his or her Petition, you must start all over again. The maintenance clock resumes, adding more time for you to pay maintenance. That is unless you have your Counter Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on file

Practice Tips: For those receiving or paying Illinois maintenance, take special note of the chart for the length of time for maintenance purposes.

At 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of marriage there is a substantial increase in the number of years of maintenance to be paid; the factor goes up from .2 to .8 as the length of your marriage increases. Those of you on the cusp of a new bracket may want to delay, or speed up, in order to receive or limit the payment of more maintenance over a longer length of time.

Special Practice Note: Illinois Maintenance Statute

Please note that there is also an ambiguity in the Length of Marriage years since they overlap at the end of the period. This error will need to be addressed by the Appellate Courts of Illinois or the Illinois Legislature.

Chart of Length of Marriage for Maintenance Purposes

Length of Marriage

Factor to Multiply

Length of Maintenance

0 to 5 years of marriage

.2

Example 5 years x.2 = 1 year

5 to 10 years of marriage

.4

Example 8 years x.4 = 3.2 years

10 to 15 years of marriage

.6

Example 10 years x.6 = 6 years

15 to 20 years of marriage

.8

Example 19 years x.8 = 15.2 years

20 or more years of

20 or more years, the court may either make the duration of maintenance equal to the length of the marriage or make maintenance permanent.

Speak with a Skilled Illinois Divorce Attorney Today

If you are considering filing for divorce, and have any questions concerning the new maintenance laws taking effect January 1, 2016, we can help. Please contact the knowledgeable Hinsdale divorce attorneys at Martoccio & Martioccio today at 630-920-8855.

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