Spousal Maintenance in Illinois for High Net Worth Couples

Spousal Maintenance in Illinois for High Net Worth Couples

By M. Scott Gordon

Many Chicago area residents have heard about the new guidelines in Illinois when it comes to spousal maintenance (or alimony) payments. As an article from the Illinois State Bar Association explains, the new law P.A. 98-0961 resulted in changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/) and now contains guidelines for judges to use when making spousal support determinations. In short, the new law creates a formula for courts to use when deciding how much a “payor spouse” should provide to the “payee spouse”. The idea is that spousal maintenance payments will be more streamlined and more objective—the amount of payments will not depend upon certain subjective factors that can sometimes enter into a court’s decision-making process.

However, the new formula is not applicable to all divorces or situations in which spousal maintenance payments may be awarded. To be sure, the new law only concerns couples who have a combined gross annual income of under $250,000. As such, it is unlikely that judges would consider the formula when evaluating spousal support payments in a high net worth divorce. If the formula is not applicable for a couple making more than $250,000—and likely much more when we consider many high asset divorce cases—how will a court determine the total amount of a spousal maintenance in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs?

Factors in Deciding Whether to Award Spousal Maintenance

Although a court may not rely on the spousal maintenance formula in high asset divorces, it nonetheless will consider similar factors when deciding whether or not to award spousal maintenance. To be sure, the formula is not the first step in a court’s awarding of spousal maintenance. Rather, there is a threshold step that comes first: are spousal support payments appropriate at all? Only when a judge determines that spousal maintenance is indeed appropriate will she or he move onto the new formula. As such, divorcing couples, regardless of income, should have a sense of how a court decides whether spousal maintenance is suitable.

Under Illinois law, before deciding the amount of spousal support payments, the court will use the following factors to determine whether spousal maintenance is fitting in a particular divorcing couple’s circumstances:

  • Each party’s income and property;
  • Each party’s needs;
  • Present and future earning capacities of each of the parties;
  • Whether one of the parties devoted time to domestic duties or to the marriage that prevented that party from acquiring education, training, or employment, which impacts that party’s present and future earning capacity;
  • Amount of time one of the parties would need to acquire the education, training, or employment necessary to support himself or herself without spousal maintenance;
  • Contributions by one spouse to the other spouse’s education, training, or career enhancement that have impacted that spouse’s present or future earning capacity;
  • Standard of living enjoyed by the spouses during the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Age of the parties;
  • Physical and emotional health of each of the parties;
  • Tax implications of property division upon each of the parties; and
  • Agreement between the parties about spousal maintenance.

If the court decides that spousal maintenance is appropriate for a case in which the parties have a combined income of more than $250,000, the court will consider many of these factors in going on to make a decision about the amount of support.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions about spousal maintenance, a Chicago area divorce lawyer can assist you. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.