Spousal Support Basics in Illinois

CharlesWho is entitled to alimony in Illinois, and what are the criteria for awarding it?

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or maintenance, may be awarded to either spouse. In Illinois, courts do not consider fault, or marital misconduct, in setting the amount of alimony. Instead, a court will consider other relevant factors, including:

  • Both spouses’ income and property, including marital property, awarded to both spouses and any non-marital property awarded to the spouse requesting alimony;
  • The financial needs of each spouse;
  • The present and future earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The length  of the marriage;
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of both spouses;
  • The tax consequences of the property division for each spouse’s economic circumstances;
  • Whether the  spouse requesting alimony made significant contributions to the other spouse’s education, training, or career.
  • Several other factors may be considered in specific cases.

If both spouses can become self-supporting, a court may not award any alimony, even if one spouse earns substantially more than the other. Courts can deal with any major difference in earnings by distributing more of the marital property (like bank accounts, mutual funds, and any tangible assets) to the lower-earning spouse.

How long does alimony last?

There are a number of different types of alimony, which continue for varying periods of time.

  • Short-term rehabilitative alimony enables the receiving spouse to pay for living expenses while gaining the skills necessary to become self-supporting.
  • Longer-term alimony may be ordered for a set period and then reviewed again so the court can determine whether it should continue as is, or be increased, decreased, or terminated altogether. A spouse receiving longer-term alimony is still expected to make good faith efforts (taking into account age, skills, and life experience) to become employed and self-supporting. The idea behind this is that, generally speaking, alimony payments will be terminated at some point rather than go on indefinitely. However, if a spouse can show a permanent inability to become self-supporting (the person can never obtain gainful employment), a court might order that alimony payments will continue permanently.

How do I sort through it all?

Contact a knowledgeable Aurora family law attorney today to help demystify the intricacies involved with determining, receiving, and maintaining spousal support.

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