What is Alimony or Maintenance Law?
At the turn of the new year, several new laws went into effect in Illinois. Among them was a significant change to the state’s rules governing alimony payments, now known in the legal world as maintenance. Maintenance or alimony is a financial payment made monthly from one former spouse to the other. The details are determined during a divorce proceeding and included in the settlement. Maintenance payments exist to level the financial playing field, in a sense, for the ex-spouse whose income is lower.
Who Has to Pay Alimony or Maintenance?
The classic image of alimony payments is one in which the wife does not earn money during the marriage and, upon divorce, her ex-husband pays monthly alimony to her essentially forever.
Some modern maintenance agreements mirror this stereotypical scenario, but typically they are more complicated. Also, there’s been a definitive shift away from viewing maintenance cases through a gendered lens in which the man always has to pay alimony.
In most modern marriages, both spouses work—and men don’t always earn more. In 25% of opposite-sex marriages, the woman’s income is greater. In same-sex marriages, all the old gender role stereotypes are thrown out completely.
How Does Alimony or Maintenance Work in Illinois?
The method for determining appropriate maintenance begins with a calculation outlined in Illinois law for figuring out alimony payments.
To come up with a payment amount, family law judges start by determining who has the larger annual income. Whoever has the greater income becomes the payor and will pay the money each month, and the other person becomes the payee, who will receive the money.
Next, the judge calculates a percentage of each person’s annual income. Then, he or she deducts the smaller amount from the larger amount. The remainder is the amount of annual maintenance that could be paid from the payor to the payee. This figure offers a starting point for judges to use when determining the final payment.
Family law judges consider several other factors when determining appropriate maintenance payments, including but not limited to:
- Duration of the marriage
- Each person’s age, health, occupation, skills, employability, property and liabilities
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- Each person’s present and future earning capacity
- Whether the person seeking maintenance has delayed their education or career, or taken on domestic duties, leading to an impairment in future earning power
- The time it would take for the person seeking maintenance to gain education, training and employment
- Whether the person seeking maintenance contributed resources to support the education, training or career potential of the other spouse
- Tax consequences of the decision
What Has Changed with Alimony Law In Illinois?
When it amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in August 2018, the Illinois legislature put in place two significant changes to the maintenance calculation process, both of which became active in 2019.
1. Illinois alimony law change: Net Income
Beginning with divorce decrees in 2019, alimony payments will now be calculated using each person’s net income, their actual take-home pay after taxes. This change gives family law judges a more accurate picture of each person’s financial needs. After-tax income reflects tax burdens and benefits, such as those that come with dependent children.
This change is a reaction to an update in the Internal Revenue Code of the federal government. Previously, alimony payors could deduct maintenance payments on their federal tax filing. Those with divorce decrees on or after Jan. 1, 2019, are no longer allowed to deduct alimony as the payor nor include alimony as income to the payee.
2. How Alimony Works 2021
The second change to the Illinois maintenance law involves the numbers used to calculate the starting point of alimony payment consideration.
Previous alimony calculations
“…the amount of maintenance … shall be calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross annual income minus 20% of the payee’s gross annual income…”
New alimony calculations
“…the amount of maintenance … shall be calculated by taking 33 1/3% of the payor’s net annual income minus 25% of the payee’s net annual income…”
Maintenance determinations are a complex and emotional process inside the larger context of a divorce proceeding. For questions about alimony and assistance, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Sterk Family Law to get started.
This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.