Divorce Maintenance: What You Need to Know

Maintenance, or what is sometimes referred to as spousal support or alimony, is often one of the most contested determinations in a divorce.

What is Maintenance?

Maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is ordered when one spouse requires financial support following the divorce to allow the receiving spouse to sustain a certain level of income or maintain their existing lifestyle. It is important to note that not all individuals are entitled to spousal support. In Illinois, an award of maintenance is based on the needs of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to provide compensation.

There are three types of maintenance:

  • Fixed Term Maintenance: Maintenance paid for a specified duration, after which maintenance is barred.
  • Indefinite Maintenance: No designated termination date. However, maintenance may still be modified or terminated as outlined below.
  • Reviewable maintenance: This is most commonly granted where one spouse is still in school or needs a short duration of time to become self-supporting. In these cases, a court will grant maintenance for a specified term with a review. Upon review, the court will decide whether to extend maintenance for an additional period of time.

What Determines Maintenance?

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the court makes the determination of whether maintenance is appropriate after considering many different factors, which may include:

  • The income of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s capacity to earn income
  • Duration of marriage
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The health and well-being of each spouse

Additionally, the court can consider supplemental factors that it deems to be important in determining an equitable maintenance agreement overall.

How is Maintenance Calculated?

The amount of maintenance a spouse receives is determined using a mathematical formula in accordance with the guidelines set forth in Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

While judges utilize this formula when calculating monthly alimony payments, they also have the authority to make their own determinations when assessing whether the couple’s circumstances require special considerations and are free to deviate from the standard formula and guidelines if necessary to allow for a fair determination.

Can Maintenance Be Modified in the Future?

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, maintenance generally may be modified if the requesting spouse can show a substantial change in circumstances has occurred (unless the parties previously agreed to nonmodifiable maintenance). When considering whether to modify a spouse’s maintenance award, the court considers factors such as:

  • Change in employment status
  • Any impairment of present and future earning capacity
  • Efforts to become self-supporting
  • The property awarded to each spouse under their judgment of dissolution of marriage
  • The increase or decrease in either spouse’s income

When Does Maintenance End?

Maintenance ends when either spouse dies. Additionally, maintenance also ends if the spouse receiving maintenance remarries or cohabits with another person in a resident, continuing conjugal basis. Finally, maintenance may terminate upon the completion of the statutory duration (determined by the duration of the parties’ marriage).

The attorneys at Kogut & Wilson are experienced in helping spouses negotiate spousal support terms that work for them. If you are facing a divorce and are concerned about your maintenance determination, or feel you are in need of a modification to your existing maintenance schedule, we invite you to contact our dedicated Chicago divorce attorneys at Kogut & Wilson today.


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