New Illinois Maintenance Guidelines Impact Divorce Cases
In divorce cases, due to the discretion afforded a trial court, the calculation of maintenance can vary significantly from judge to judge and county to county. However, this should change as of January 1, 2015. The Illinois legislature has enacted a new law that impacts how courts will determine maintenance in divorce cases, and it will have a significant impact on future maintenance determinations in Illinois.
In many divorce cases, maintenance calculations have been difficult to ascertain. Judges have often had great discretion in awarding maintenance. However, a new Public Act impacts how courts will award maintenance to couples with a combined income of less than $250,000.
How Judges Previously Calculated Maintenance
Previously, judges did not calculate maintenance based on a statutory formula. Instead, judges calculated maintenance using a list of factors found in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The factors included the following:
- Income of both parties;
- Needs of each party;
- Present and future earning capacity of both parties;
- Impairment of present and future earnings;
- Time necessary for party seeking alimony to find employment;
- Standard of living established during a marriage;
- Duration of the marriage;
- Tax consequences of property division;
- Contribution of party seeking alimony to the education or career of the other spouse; and
- Binding agreements of the parties
In addition to the aforementioned factors, the court considered additional factors as it saw fit. The broad discretion used by judges to calculate maintenance led to a wide-array of results.
Changes in Maintenance Calculation
With the new Public Act, there is a formula that judges can use to determine maintenance. Judges do not have to use the formula; but, when they choose not to, they must explain why. The new formula dictates that maintenance should equal no more than 30 percent of the payor's gross income less 20 percent of the payee's gross income. Further, maintenance cannot push the payee's income over an amount higher than 40 percent of both parties' combined gross income.
Example of a Maintenance Calculation Using the Formula
To better understand this, consider the following example. A husband and wife are getting a divorce. The husband earns $100,000 annually and his wife earns $25,000. Their combined income is under $250,000. Thus, a judge can use the formula detailed in the Public Act. Using the formula, maintenance would be calculated as follows:
$30,000 (30 percent of the husband's gross income) - $6,250 (20 percent of the wife's gross income) = $23,750 (annual maintenance calculation).
In the above example, the husband owes his wife $23,750 in maintenance annually. This maintenance calculation is acceptable because it will not push the wife's income over $50,000, which is the cap you derive when you calculate 40 percent of the parties' combined gross income.
Formula to Determine Length of Maintenance Payments
The Public Act also establishes a formula to determine the amount of time the payor must pay maintenance. The longer the marriage was, the longer the maintenance payments will last. For instance, if a marriage only lasted five years, maintenance payments should last for 20 percent of that time, or one year. However, when a marriage lasts for 20 years or longer, the payments could last permanently.
Contact a Divorce Attorney
If you are going through a divorce, you need an experienced divorce attorney by your side. At MKFM Law, our Illinois family law attorneys have years of combined experience. Feel free to contact us using our easy to access form or call our office at (630) 665-7300. We look forward to speaking with you.