OVERVIW OF ALIMONY IN ILLINOIS
The laws governing alimony in Illinois drastically changed on January 1, 2015, when the Illinois Legislature enacted the revised guidelines for calculating both the (1) amount of alimony in Illinois and (2) duration of payments for alimony in Illinois.
As if this overhaul to the statute didn’t complicate things enough, the laws regarding alimony in Illinois have been updated multiple times since 2015 as well.
To correctly calculate the amount and duration of alimony in Illinois, you must follow the most recent version of the statute. However, judges have discretion to deviate from the statute if the circumstances warrant it.
This article includes several examples of how to calculate the amount and duration of alimony in Illinois based on the current statute. The goal of these examples is to help you better understand how much alimony you may receive or be required to pay as a result of divorce. This article also addresses the circumstances which may prompt a judge to deviate from the statute.
Determining The Correct Amount Of Alimony In Illinois
The amount of alimony in Illinois is determined by taking thirty-three and one-third percent of the payer’s net yearly income minus twenty-five percent of the payee’s net yearly income. The amount, when combined with the payee’s gross income, cannot result in the payee receiving more than forty percent of the parties’ combined net income. (**This calculation applies if the parties’ combined gross yearly income is below $500,000 and the payer has no obligation to pay child support or maintenance from a prior relationship, unless the court finds that this calculation would be inappropriate).
Example 1 (Forty Percent Rule Not Applicable):
- Assume spouse A (payer) has a net income of $95,000 and spouse B (payee) nets $15,000. Thus, thirty-three and one-third percent of payer’s net income is $31,667.67 and twenty-five percent of payee’s net income is $3,750. The difference of $27,916.67 plus the payee’s net income of $15,000 equals $42,916.67. Forty percent of the parties’ total combined net income is $44,000.
- Therefore, $27,916.67 would be the amount of alimony in Illinois to be paid each year because the amount calculated as alimony, when added to the gross net income of the payee ($15,000) does not result in the payee receiving more than forty percent of the parties’ combined net income.
Example 2 (Forty Percent Rule Applicable):
- Assume spouse A (payer) has a net income of $95,000 and spouse B (payee) nets $25,000 per year. Thus, thirty-three and one-third percent of the payer’s net income is $31,667.67 and twenty-five percent of the payee’s net income is $6,250. The difference of $25,416.67 plus the payee’s net income of $25,000 equals $50,416.67. Forty percent of the parties’ total combined net income is $48,000. Since $50,416.67 exceeds forty percent of the parties’ total combined net income by $2,416.67, that must be subtracted from the $25,416.67 difference, which limits the payee’s alimony to $23,000 each year.
- The major difference between this example and Example 1 is that the amount calculated as alimony in this example, when added to the payee’s net income, results in the payee receiving more than forty percent of the parties’ combined net income. Thus, the payee’s alimony is reduced so that it is not more than the forty percent ceiling.
**Rule of thumb: The greater the difference between the payer and payee’s income, the less likely the forty percent rule will limit the payee’s award.
Calculating The Duration Of Alimony In Illinois
Another major change in the laws governing alimony in Illinois addresses how the duration of the alimony/maintenance is to be determined. Now courts multiply the number of years the spouses were married by a designated number as follows:
- less than 5 years = multiply by .20
- 5 years or more but less than 6 years = multiply by .24
- 6 years or more but less than 7 years = multiply by .28
- 7 years or more but less than 8 years = multiply by .32
- 8 years or more but less than 9 years = multiply by .36
- 9 years or more but less than 10 years = multiply by .40
- 10 years or more but less than 11 years = multiply by .44
- 11 years or more but less than 12 years = multiply by .48
- 12 years or more but less than 13 years = multiply by .52
- 13 years or more but less than 14 years = multiply by .56
- 14 years or more but less than 15 years = multiply by .60
- 15 years or more but less than 16 years = multiply by .64
- 16 years or more but less than 17 years = multiply by .68
- 17 years or more but less than 18 years = multiply by .72
- 18 years or more but less than 19 years = multiply by .76
- 19 years or more but less than 20 years = multiply by .80
- 20+ years = the court has discretion to order alimony for a time period equal to the length of marriage or for an indefinite term.
The courts are required to adhere to the guidelines regarding the amount and duration of alimony in Illinois unless the judge finds that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate. If such a finding is made, the judge must articulate the reason behind the variance from the guidelines. Thus, while these guidelines have shifted the law governing alimony in Illinois awards towards a more black and white rule, there remains room for the court to exercise its discretion when the circumstances warrant it.
Circumstances Warranting A Deviation From The Alimony Statutory Guidelines
Before diving into the circumstances which may warrant deviation from the statute, we first want to reiterate that judges have discretion regarding whether to award alimony and the amount of alimony to award in Illinois.
Courts consider many factors when determining whether it is appropriate for a party to get alimony. The statute has a catchall provision at the end stating any other factor that the court deems fair. Thus, the court has a lot of leeway to exercise its discretion.
However, there are some things you can do to put yourself in a better position to receive alimony or prevent your spouse from receiving alimony in Illinois.
4 Ways To Get Alimony In Illinois
…or at least improve the likelihood of a judge awarding it.
- Sign a valid agreement between the parties, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement;
- Document the sacrifices you made towards child-rearing and home-making instead of education or career-related opportunities;
- Document your efforts to obtain a job that would earn you enough money to keep up your standard of living;
- Document the financial, physical, and emotional support you provided your spouse that furthered his/her education and/or career.
The weight a judge gives to certain factors varies greatly from case to case depending on the facts. The goal of alimony is to try to maintain the parties’ standard of living during the marriage and not leave one party without the financial means to provide for himself/herself. The governing statute provides both males and females the ability to get alimony in Illinois as the traditional view that males were assumed to be the primary earner has evolved and thus courts strive to award alimony in Illinois as justice warrants without regard to gender.
However, a valid agreement between the parties, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, may greatly affect the court’s decision. Courts will typically consider such agreements as long as certain facts surrounding the signing of the agreements do not evidence any undue influence or misinformation and it is not unconscionable to allow the agreements to govern. Courts are less likely to recognize postnuptial agreements as there exists a greater suspicion of manipulation.
Judges will typically first look at the parties’ incomes, property, present and future earning capacity as well as any factors that may limit the earning capacity of the alimony-seeking party. One of the most common factors courts consider is the time spent on child-rearing and home-making instead of education or career-related opportunities.
Courts often consider efforts by the alimony-seeking party to the education and career-related opportunities of the other spouse. If the alimony-seeking spouse missed educational or career-related opportunities, judges consider the time necessary to enable the alimony-seeking party to pursue those missed opportunities and whether that party has the financially means to do so during this time or is the custodian of a child making it more appropriate that the custodian refrain from pursuing such opportunities.
Thus, if the alimony-seeking spouse sacrificed a college education, quit his/her job, or passed up a promotion to help further the other spouse’s career or to spend additional time taking care of the house/children, then the court may be more likely to award alimony in the interest of financial fairness.
The parties’ needs, age, and physical and emotional condition are also factors, especially if limitations exist regarding one or both of the parties’ abilities to gain and/or maintain employment.
Alimony in Illinois may be awarded as a way to balance a skewed property division during divorce depending on many other factors. For example, if spouse A had a significant amount of separate property prior to the marriage (property not considered to be joint marital property) and also received an even split of the marital property, then spouse B’s financial worth will be significantly less prior to considering the parties incomes and potential future earnings. Thus, property division is a factor courts may consider more strongly if there is a disparity in the way property was divided.
All of the factors may be given substantially more weight if the couple was married for several years as courts attempt to allow the parties to maintain the standard of living the spouses were accustomed to during the marriage. Thus, the court is more likely to award alimony in Illinois if the couple was married for 20+ years because the alimony-seeking spouse is likely to have become very used to living a certain way and opportunities may have long since passed and not awarding alimony may leave that spouse’s financial future in disarray.
On the other hand, if a marriage lasts for only a couple years, courts are less sympathetic to the plights of the alimony-seeking spouse because it is less believable that he/she grew accustomed to the standard of living during the marriage and does not have the opportunity to pursue gainful employment after divorce.
As previously mentioned, the goal of the courts is typically to award alimony in Illinois where it is appropriate in order to maintain the parties’ standard of living during the marriage and not leave one party without the financial means to provide for themselves in the future. Thus, the governing statute provides judges with the discretion to entertain any other factors they deem fair.
How To Find A Good Lawyer To Help With Alimony And Other Issue In Divorce
A good starting point is to do a Google search. For example, if you live in McLean County, you could Google best divorce lawyers Bloomington IL. The best divorce lawyers have significant experience so their website should appear organically on the first page of Google or in the Google Maps. There are also directories on the first page of Google, which list some of the local law firms who handle divorce cases. If you or your spouse have significant assets or are recognizable figures in the community, you may want to look for a High Profile Divorce Lawyer Bloomington IL. There are only a couple law firms in Central Illinois with the requisite experience to handle the complex issues that accompany a high profile divorce case.
The Divorce Lawyers At Koth Gregory & Nieminski Can Help
Understanding how much alimony you may receive or be required to pay is an important aspect of divorce. Whether you are seeking alimony in Illinois or attempting to avoid these spousal support payments, you may want to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney who understands the nuances of the Illinois courts and when judges tend to vary from these guidelines.
If you (or someone you know) need a divorce attorney, contact the family law firm of Koth Gregory & Nieminski in Bloomington IL. Let us ease your burden and be your advocate.
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