There are many pieces to the divorce settlement puzzle. Some pieces have been more clearly defined, such as child support which has had guidelines for some time. Others like maintenance have been generally discretionary in nature. The courts have historically used several factors, as defined in the statute, to determine a maintenance award. (See our previous Blog post dated June 20, 2014). The problem with the current list of factors is that when applied on a case by case basis, maintenance has varied greatly making it unpredictable. Commencing January 1, 2015, Illinois has established maintenance guidelines for divorcing parties whose combined gross income is less than $250,000.00 per year in an attempt to bring more consistency.
In an effort to “simplify” maintenance calculations, Senate Bill 3231 was recently signed by Governor Quinn on August 15, 2014 and will become effective on January 1st 2015. In summary, Senate Bill 3231 amends provisions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act concerning maintenance which are found at 750 ILCS 5/504 and 505. Once a court determines that maintenance is appropriate, the new maintenance provisions create a formula for calculating maintenance based on the gross income of the parties and the length of the marriage. If the Court decides not to apply the guideline formula, it must state why the guideline was not utilized and state how much should be paid if the guideline was applied.
The formula is calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. The maintenance award, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined gross income of the parties. The duration of the maintenance award is also calculated by multiplying the length of marriage by the following factors: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); 15-20 years (.80) and if 20+ years, the standard is a permanent maintenance award or an award for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
There are many new issues and questions to be addressed with regard to maintenance. This summary only provides a brief overview of the guidelines. With or without changes to the maintenance provisions, it is always necessary to consult with your attorney about the specifics of your case. Even those not yet involved in a Family Law matter are entitled to a consultation to better understand his or her options and the process. It is important to understand your rights and obligations as you determine your plans. As always, please contact our office with questions or to schedule a free consultation.
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