Years of combining income and resources can make the process of divorce quite difficult. Couples may struggle to find a reasonable solution for property division and financial equity, especially when there is a significant disparity in earning potential or separate property.
Sometimes, one spouse voluntarily leaves the workforce for the benefit of the greater family unit or they deprioritize their career to focus more on their children and their household. Those sacrifices benefit the entire family but result in reduced earning potential for that spouse.
Dependent and lower-earnings spouses can sometimes request spousal maintenance, which people also call alimony. The amount of maintenance one spouse pays the other is generally determined by the needs of the spouse receiving payments, the income of the spouse making payments and numerous marital circumstances.
The longer the marriage, the longer the maintenance
A judge presiding over a divorce in Illinois can order maintenance in accordance with their opinion of the marital circumstances, provided that they follow state law. In most cases, the length of the marriage has a direct impact on how long the dependent spouse can receive maintenance payments.
If the marriage ended in under five years, the maintenance will usually last for 20% of the total length of the marriage. Those who remain married for 10 years may receive maintenance for roughly 40% of the marriage’s duration. If the divorce occurs after 20 years of marriage or more, the courts can order an equal duration of maintenance. In fact, in such long marriages, the courts have the option of ordering indefinite maintenance payments.
There are a handful of situations in which payments may end earlier than that. If the spouse receiving maintenance remarries, the payments will end. In fact, if they cohabitate with a new romantic partner without marrying them, that can be sufficient grounds to terminate maintenance payments. Additionally, someone paying maintenance could petition for the end of payments based on a substantial change in circumstances.
Formal changes are necessary to avoid penalties
The spouse ordered to pay maintenance cannot stop sending payments unless they reach the end date for maintenance according to their order. Those who believe their situation no longer meets the state standard for maintenance payments can file a request to modify or terminate the maintenance payments. Only after a judge reviews and approves such a request will someone’s obligation to make payments actually end.
Learning more about how spousal maintenance functions in Illinois will help those trying to plan for the future. Seeking legal guidance can be a beneficial course of action as well.