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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article provides an overview of the Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law in 2019. We will explain recent changes to Illinois spousal maintenance law, and we will answer the following questions: “how do Illinois courts determine whether to award spousal maintenance?”, “When do Illinois courts deviate from spousal maintenance guidelines?” and “how is spousal maintenance calculated in 2019?” 

Changes to Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law for 2019

Federal tax laws have changed the tax implications for spousal maintenance payments awarded after January 1, 2019. Previously, spousal maintenance payments were tax deductible for the payor, while they were taxable as income tax to the recipient. Maintenance payments are not tax deductible for the payor and are not considered taxable income for the recipient. 

As discussed in our article, Changes to Illinois Spousal Maintenance Under the 2019 Tax Law, this is likely to lead to smaller maintenance awards in some cases. In the article, we also discuss the change in how maintenance is calculated in 2019. Rather than using percentages of each party’s gross income to calculate the number of maintenance payments, courts now use net income as well as different percentages. 

For more on this, check out our article, Changes to Illinois Spousal Maintenance 2019.

How Do Illinois Courts Determine Whether to Award Spousal Maintenance?

The first determination that a divorce court must make concerning spousal maintenance is whether spousal maintenance is appropriate at all. Courts weigh several factors when making this determination, including:

  • The income and assets of each party;
  • The needs of each party; and
  • The standard of living during the marriage.

For a more extensive list of factors and further discussion of this topic, please check out our article, Illinois Spousal Maintenance Explained. 

When Do Illinois Courts Deviate From Spousal Maintenance Guidelines?

If the court determines that spousal maintenance is appropriate, the following determination the court must make is whether to apply statutory guidelines to determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments or whether to deviate from those guidelines. 

Courts generally apply statutory guidelines if the parties’ combined gross income is less than $500,000.00 and the payor does not have a child support or maintenance obligation from a prior relationship. Judges retain discretion to deviate from the guidelines in these situations; however, their order must state their reasoning if they do so. When making this determination, judges will often weigh the same factors as when determining whether maintenance is appropriate at all. 

For more on this, check out our article: Illinois Spousal Maintenance Explained.

How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in 2019?

If the court finds spousal maintenance appropriate and chooses not to deviate from statutory guidelines, the amount of spousal maintenance is determined by subtracting 25% of the recipient’s net income from 33.3% of the payor’s net income. This amount is capped at 40% of the parties’ combined net income. For more on this and how to calculate net income, check out our article: How to Calculate Illinois Spousal Maintenance.

The duration of spousal maintenance is determined by using a statutory table that bases the duration of the maintenance payments on a percentage of the duration of the marriage—the percentage increases as the duration of the marriage increases. For more on this, including a listing of the statutory table, check out our article, How is the Duration of Spousal Maintenance Determined in Illinois? More on this: How is the Duration of Spousal Maintenance Calculated?

Modifying Spousal Maintenance Obligations in 2019

Spousal maintenance obligations can be modified based on certain specific life events that cause the payments to terminate or based on a substantial change in the circumstances. In either case, the party seeking modification must file a motion for modification of spousal maintenance, which will initiate a hearing before the court. For a detailed discussion on how to modify spousal maintenance, which events lead to termination of maintenance obligations, and the factors courts consider when determining whether a substantial change of circumstances warrants modification of spousal maintenance obligations, check out our article: Modification of Spousal Maintenance Orders in Illinois.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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