Radical Change in Illinois’ Alimony Law
Illinois has a new alimony law which goes into effect on January 1, 2015. The governor has signed the bill into law, and it is official.
The term “Alimony” was the legal word for spousal support until 1977, when the Illinois Divorce Act underwent a major overhaul. Spousal support was renamed “Maintenance” at that time. For the sake of understandability, this article uses the word “Alimony” when referring to Maintenance and spousal support.
The new law changes things profoundly, and will affect many soon-to-be ex-spouses. Whether it favors the payer or the payee depends on the circumstances of each individual case.
The basic framework of how Illinois has historically determined alimony entitlement has not changed. However, new language has been added to the statute which creates a set of specific income percentage guidelines for the court to follow. This is intended to streamline things and to avoid inconsistent alimony awards. The use of statutory guidelines has been used to determine child support in Illinois since 1984, but they are brand new to Alimony.
It is believed that the use of such guidelines will give judges an objective way to decide the amount and length of alimony awards, and will help divorcing spouses during their settlement negotiations by giving them realistic expectations as to how a judge will rule.
How much will the alimony be?
The new guidelines are based on a mathematical formula, which takes into account the gross incomes of both spouses.
In its simplest form, the amount of alimony to be awarded will be calculated by deducting 20% of the payee’s gross income (from all sources) from 30% of the payer’s gross income (from all sources). However, the amount to be paid cannot exceed 40% of the payer and payee’s total gross incomes.
For example, if the payer’s total gross income is $150,000 per year, and the payee’s gross income is $30,000 per year, the amount of alimony to be paid is $39,000 per year ($45,000 minus $6,000). The 40% rule is not a factor because 40% of the spouses’ total gross incomes is $72,000, which is higher than $39,000.
It must be noted that the new law will only apply to couples whose combined gross incomes are less than $250,000 per year, and in circumstances where multiple families are not involved (i.e., there is no existing obligation to pay support because of a prior relationship).
How long will the alimony be paid?
To determine the duration of the alimony award, multiply the length of the marriage by the appropriate percentage:
0-5 years = .20
5-10 years = .40
10-15 years = .60
15-20 years = .80
For example: If the parties have been married for 8 years, the maintenance duration would be calculated as follows:
8 years x .40 (factor for 5-10 year marriages) = 3.2 years or 38 months of maintenance.
For marriages of 20 years or more, the court can either order permanent maintenance or, alternatively, maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
The court is mandated to follow the above guidelines unless it makes a number of specific Findings to justify its deviation.