Spousal Maintenance after a Divorce

When a married couple divorces or legally separates in the state of Illinois, the circumstances may call for one of the spouses to receive support payments from the other even after splitting, this is referred to as spousal maintenance.

According to the Digital Journal, spousal maintenance, also called spousal support, is the transfer of money from one (former) spouse to the other on an ongoing basis as part of the divorce settlement. It is not always automatically awarded, and it is completely separate from child support.

In a settlement agreement, the parties of a divorce may include a spousal maintenance provision which must be approved by the court if it is reasonable. Once approved, the settlement terms become part of the court’s divorce decree. In Illinois, the court will approve an agreed-upon spousal support provision so long as it is not severely unjust or unreasonable, considering the financial status of the separating parties. If the court finds the spousal maintenance agreement to be unreasonable, it can either ask the parties to renegotiate or the judge themselves can create a spousal support arrangement.

If for any reason the former spouses are unable to negotiate an acceptable agreement on spousal maintenance, it is up to the judge to decide if it is appropriate under the given circumstances, as well as set the payment amounts, duration, and the schedule. The spousal support arrangement may last for a set term, an indefinite term, or be set for later review. Both parties will be permitted to submit relevant evidence to the court.

The state of Illinois not only requires the judge to consider “all relevant factors” whilst determining maintenance agreements, but it also sets out specific factors for the court to consider. These factors include, but are not limited to, property and income available to each spouse, each party’s needs, current and future earning capacities, the marital standard of living, how long the parties were married, tax concerns, etc.

Spousal maintenance is unique to each marriage and divorce. While many factors are considered, the courts do not look at certain issues. For example, they place some weight on the hope that the parties will not have to be tied to each other indefinitely. Some cases require temporary maintenance, which is called “rehabilitative maintenance”, while others may be permanent, such as if one party is disabled and will always need support.

A new 2012 provision allows the court to order the paying spouse to obtain life insurance in order to protect the receiving spouse’s financial needs should the paying spouse die during their obligation.

Spousal support systems are very complex and require a lot of time and thought. If you are going through a divorce of your own and considering this, it would be in your best interest to seek the aid of an experienced divorce attorney.

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