What You Should Know About Changes to Spousal Maintenance in Illinois
By: M. Scott Gordon
If you have been thinking about filing for divorce in Chicago, you might know that Illinois law under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) stipulates guidelines for determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance awards in certain cases. Now, however, with the passage of Public Act 100-0520, changes to spousal maintenance law will take effect on June 1, 2018. We will summarize the significant changes for you, and then we will give you some more information about how they may be applicable to your situation.
Guidelines for Chicago Spousal Maintenance
Prior to the new guidelines taking effect, courts still had spousal maintenance guidelines to use. Even these guidelines—without the revisions that will take effect on June 1, 2018—are relatively new. Up until a short time ago, there were no statutory guidelines in Illinois for determining spousal maintenance awards or their duration. When guidelines were implemented, they applied to couples with a gross income of under $250,000. In other words, the guidelines would only be applicable if a couple together earned less than $250,000 each year. The formula for determining the duration also had some inconsistencies that needed to be addressed, along with questions of how temporary spousal maintenance would affect the duration of the award.
The following are the three key changes to the law that anyone in Chicago considering divorce should learn more about:
1. Starting in June 1, 2018, the guidelines will apply to a couple with a combined gross income of under $500,000. The change to the law doubles the amount, recognizing that there was a need to streamline the spousal maintenance law in order to make it align with the income shares model for child support. This change to the law also allows higher earning couples to have the benefit of courts using the guidelines, which help to ensure an objective spousal maintenance award.
2. There will no longer be 20 percent shifts in the duration of the maintenance awards. As a report from the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) clarifies, the new law “eliminates the 20 percent ‘cliffs’ in the formula for duration of the marriage by gradually increasing the duration of maintenance . . . by 4 percent until the parties’ 20th anniversary.” Previously, for marriages lasting under five years, the court determined the duration of the award by multiplying the length of the marriage by .20, and then when the couple had been married for 5 years, the calculation jumped to multiplying by .40. The change to the statute revises this “20 percent cliff,” as the report describes it.
3. Temporary maintenance awards will count as credit toward the duration of the maintenance award as of June 1, 2018.
Calculating Spousal Maintenance Amount and Duration
On June 1, 2018, the changes to the law discussed above will take effect. How will those calculations change from the current ones? As we mentioned, if a couple earns less than $500,000 combined, the formula in the guidelines will be applicable. To calculate the amount, the court takes 30 percent of the payor’s gross annual income and subtracts 20 percent of the payee’s gross annual income.
How about the duration? If the marriages last for fewer than five years, the length of the marriage is multiplied by .20 to get the duration of the award. For marriages longer than five years but shorter than six years, the length is multiplied by .28, and the formula continues to increase by .04 for each additional year of marriage.
Contact a Chicago Spousal Maintenance Lawyer