Once again, the maintenance laws are going through some changes. Effective June 1, 2018, new guidelines will be in effect for maintenance for Illinois family law. This change affects not only the maximum gross income ceiling for guideline maintenance, but also the duration of maintenance payments. “Guideline” maintenance means that if the parties fit certain criteria, maintenance should be calculated according to the statute.
Currently, the combined gross income cap for guideline maintenance is $250,000.00. This means that so long as both parties’ combined gross income is less than $250,000.00, then maintenance guidelines will apply. However, at some point in 2018, the gross income cap for guideline maintenance will be $500,000.00. This means that guideline maintenance will apply so long as both parties’ combined gross income is less than $500,000.00.
In addition to the increase in the gross income cap for guideline maintenance, changes are also coming to guideline duration for maintenance. As it is now, the courts use an equation to figure out the duration of maintenance. There will still be an equation, however, it will be a different equation. Currently, the Court uses five year increments for the equations (i.e., married for five years or less; married more than 5 years but less than 10 years; married more than 10 years but less than 15 years; married more than 15 years, but less than 20 years; and married 20 years or more).
In 2018, the court will use the following for the duration of maintenance:
“Length of marriage” as used above means from the date of marriage to the date of filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. For example, if a party was married on January 20, 2010, and the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed on June 20, 2018, then the parties were married for eight years and five months at the time of filing. The length of marriage (eight years and five months, or 101 months) is then multiplied by .36 in order to determine the length of maintenance. Thirty six percent of 101 months is 36.36 months of maintenance, or approximately three years.
However, if the parties have been married twenty or more years, the court shall order maintenance for a period of time equal to the length of marriage, or for an indefinite term. For example, if parties are married for twenty-one years and four months at the time the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, then a recipient of maintenance is eligible to receive maintenance for either twenty-one years and four months or for an indefinite term.
One downfall of this new statute, however, is that it does not specify whether or not we are counting years and months, or just years. In our example above, we used the assumption that we are counting years and months. However, a court may decide to just take thirty-six percent of eight years to determine maintenance, rather than thirty-six percent of eight years and five months.
If temporary maintenance is awarded during the pendency of a divorce case, the amount of time that a person receives maintenance may also be a credit towards the duration a payor is required to pay his or her maintenance obligation. For example, if temporary maintenance is awarded for a period of four months before the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered, the payor may be credited those four months when determining the length the maintenance obligation is owed. This provision was not in the previous version of the maintenance statute; however, it follows a practice that many judges have already been following in cases where temporary maintenance is ordered.
These changes will include more parties under guideline maintenance, due to the increase in total gross income between the parties. These changes to guideline maintenance also provide a more graduated scale for calculation of the duration of maintenance. However, the statutory language could be more clear with regard to whether or not we are counting months when determining duration of maintenance.