What Happens if I Stop Paying Alimony/Maintenance in Illinois?

Divorce is challenging, often involving complex financial arrangements, including spousal maintenance formerly known as alimony. In Illinois, maintenance is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to another to help maintain the receiving spouse’s standard of living post-divorce. However, life circumstances can change, and individuals may find themselves unable to continue maintenance payments. In this blog, we’ll explore maintenance and the consequences of stopping payments and address some frequently asked questions.


Spousal maintenance formerly known as alimony is a financial arrangement wherein the court orders to one spouse to support the other spouse with a lower income or earning capacity. The purpose is to ensure that both parties can maintain after the divorce a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.

Factors such as the duration of the marriage, financial needs, and the earning capacity of each spouse can influence the court’s decision on maintenance.. The goal is to provide economic fairness and prevent a significant discrepancy in the financial situations of divorcing spouses.

What Happens if Alimony Payments Stop?

Failure to pay alimony in Illinois can have serious legal consequences. The court takes maintenance obligations seriously, and various enforcement mechanisms are in place to ensure compliance. Here are some potential repercussions:

Contempt of Court: If you stop making payments without a valid reason, the court may find you in contempt. This can result in fines, penalties, or even confinement as a purge to compel you to pay.

Wage Garnishment: The court may order a wage garnishment, deducting the alimony/maintenance amount directly from your paycheck before you receive it.

Property Liens: The court might place liens on your property to secure the unpaid maintenance. If you sell or refinance your property, you must pay owed maintenance  from the proceeds.

Interception of Tax Refunds: Federal and state authorities may intercept your tax refunds to cover past-due maintenance

Modification of Court Orders: If you’re facing financial hardship, it’s crucial to communicate with the court. You can request a modification of the maintenance order based on changed circumstances.  The modification of maintenance is only retroactive to the date you filed your request to the Court.  Don’t wait and see what happens.  File a Motion seeking relief as soon as a change in circumstance occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alimony/Maintenance

Can alimony be modified?

Yes, alimony orders can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a job loss, illness, or retirement unless the Order specifies that the maintenance is non-modifiable and non-reviewable.

What if my ex-spouse remarries or cohabitates?

Remarriage, or cohabitation, terminates alimony obligations in Illinois. However, checking the specific terms outlined in your divorce decree is essential.  What defines cohabitation? We touched on this topic in this blog: Limits of Cohabitation and Maintenance Allowance in Illinois

Can alimony/maintenance be enforced across state lines?

Thanks to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), maintenance orders are enforceable across state lines.

Can you waive spousal support?

Spousal support can be waived by the recipient but the Court must approve the waiver as not unconscionable.   After you waive it at the time of your divorce, you cannot change your mind and seek it later. Unless the agreement specifies otherwise, it can only be ordered as part of the divorce settlement.

Learn more about spousal maintenance in Illinois from our previous blog: Common Questions About Spousal Maintenance.

Navigating maintenance in Illinois requires a clear understanding of the legal obligations and potential consequences. Communicating any financial difficulties with the court and seeking legal advice to explore possible modifications is crucial. Stopping alimony payments without proper authorization can lead to serious legal repercussions. If you’re facing challenges in meeting your alimony obligations, consult Sterk Family Law to explore your options and protect your rights.


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.

Recent Posts

Is Adult Guardianship an Option for Your Child?

As a parent, ensuring the well-being of your child is a lifelong commitment. For some parents, this includes making decisions about adult guardianship when their child reaches the age of 18. In Illinois, there are specific laws and guidelines that can help you...