Is the Illinois Spousal Maintenance Formula Best for Everyone?

Is the Illinois Spousal Maintenance Formula Best for Everyone?

By: M. Scott Gordon

If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Chicago or the Chicago area, or if you have friends or family members who have recently gotten divorced in Illinois, you probably know that the state recently changed its approach to spousal maintenance. Rather than leaving the amount and duration of the maintenance largely up to the judge, courts are now guided by a formula based on the income of both parties and the length of the marriage. However, as an article in the Chicago Tribune suggests, while the spousal maintenance formula may be beneficial to many spouses getting divorced in the state, it does not do a lot to determine how high net worth divorces should be handled with regard to spousal maintenance.

Indeed, the spousal maintenance formula only applies to couples who earn a combined gross income of $250,000 or less. How, then, do courts make decisions about spousal maintenance in high net worth divorces?

Contending with Monthly Living Expenses in High Net Worth Divorces

The article in the Chicago Tribune focuses on the divorce of the Chicago multimillionaire, Richard Stephenson, who founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America. According to the article, Stephenson and his ex-wife Alicia have been engaged in a lengthy battle over the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance that should be awarded. During the marriage, Alicia and Richard enjoyed a lifestyle that required high costs of living. As part of the divorce proceedings, Alicia contended that, in order to maintain the lifestyle to which she became accustomed during the marriage, she would need “more than $400,000 a month to maintain her living expenses.”

That monthly amount, as you can see, is more than the annual combined gross income cutoff for couples for whom the spousal maintenance formula would apply. In cases like the Stephenson divorce, if courts are not going to rely on guidelines that come with a formula for calculating spousal maintenance, what considerations go into the court’s ultimate decision?

Judges Have Discretion in Awarding Spousal Maintenance in High Asset Divorces

Generally speaking, Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) provides a list of factors that the judge can take into account when deciding the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance award (presuming, of course, that the court has determined that spousal maintenance is appropriate). As such, in cases like the Stephenson divorce or in other high asset divorce cases, the court may consider some of the following when it decides the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance award:

  • Income and property of each of the parties;
  • Needs of each of the parties;
  • Realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
  • Domestic duties of either party resulting in that party forgoing education, employment, or other career opportunities;
  • Impairment of either party’s earning capacity;
  • Time necessary for either party to acquire the education, training, or employment necessary to support himself or herself;
  • Standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Age, health, station, occupation, and skills of each party; and
  • Prior agreement made between the parties.

There are other factors that the court can take into other factors that you should discuss with a Chicago spousal maintenance lawyer.

Contact a Spousal Maintenance Attorney in Chicago

Do you have questions about high net worth divorce and spousal maintenance calculations? An experienced divorce lawyer in Chicago and the North suburbs can help with your case. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today to learn more about the services we provide.