In Illinois, alimony, now known as “maintenance,” consists of periodic payments (usually monthly) made to a dependent spouse/ex-spouse exclusively for his/her support.

When is A Spouse Entitled to Alimony in Illinois?

During divorce proceedings, the court may grant a maintenance award for either spouse in amounts and for periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and the maintenance may be paid from the income or property of the other spouse.

Factors the Court Will Consider in Calculating Alimony in Illinois

First, the court determines whether a maintenance award is appropriate, after considering all relevant factors, including:

  1. the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance as well as all financial obligations imposed on the parties as a result of the dissolution of marriage;
    the needs of each party;
  2. the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
  3. any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having foregone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;
  4. any impairment of the realistic present or future earning capacity of the party against whom maintenance is sought;
  5. the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment;
  6. the effect of any parental responsibility arrangements and its effect on a party’s ability to seek or maintain the party seeking employment;
    the standard of living established during the marriage;
  7. the duration of the marriage;
  8. the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and the needs of each of the parties;
  9. all sources of public and private income including, without limitation, disability and retirement income;
  10. the tax consequences to each party of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;
  11. contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;
    any valid agreement of the parties; and
  12. any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.

Calculating the Amount and Length of Alimony in Illinois

The second determination is the amount of maintenance and the length of time alimony should be paid. Prior to 2015, judges calculated maintenance without statutory guidelines, instead relying on a list of factors in their rulings, so maintenance awards varied widely as a result. Now, once a court makes a determination that maintenance is appropriate, the court shall order guideline or non-guideline maintenance. “Guideline maintenance” provides guidelines on the amount and duration of payments. If the judge awards “non-guideline maintenance”, the judge must explain why. The judge must also state whether maintenance is fixed-term, indefinite, reviewable, or reserved by the court.

Guideline maintenance generally applies (unless the court finds an application of the guidelines would be inappropriate) where the combined gross incomes of the parties are less than $500,000 and the payor has no obligation to pay child support or maintenance or both from a prior relationship,

One part of the guideline maintenance formula is the amount of the payment. As of January 1, 2019, the guidelines provide that maintenance is calculated by taking 33 1/3% of the payor’s net annual income minus 25% of the payee’s net annual income, not to exceed 40% of the combined net income of the parties. Prior to 2019, the percentages were lower, but the amounts were based on gross income.

The second part of the guideline maintenance formula is the duration or length of time the payor is obligated to pay maintenance. Duration is based on the length of time of the marriage at the time the action was commenced. Most of the time, judges will not deviate from the statutory guidelines. In cases where parties have been married for twenty years or more, the judge may order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.

Recent Changes to Illinois’ Alimony Laws

For divorces entered after January 1, 2019, maintenance is not taxable to the recipient, and it is not an income tax deduction for the payor. While the above is a correct general statement of the new income tax law, the Internal Revenue Code has complex provisions relating to maintenance. Should you retain our office, we will give you specific advice if and when necessary.

For divorces entered prior to 2019, the maintenance payor was able to deduct maintenance payments for tax purposes and the recipient had to include it as income for tax purposes. These divorces are “grandfathered in” and the payor and payee will still retain these tax benefits unless they agree otherwise.