What is a “Substantial Change in Circumstances” for Modifying Spousal Maintenance?

What is a “Substantial Change in Circumstances” for Modifying Spousal Maintenance?

By: M. Scott Gordon

Spousal support, or spousal maintenance, can be awarded in divorces in Illinois in certain circumstances. Generally speaking, Illinois law says that a court can decide to award temporary or long-term maintenance for a spouse, taking into account a variety of factors in making the determination as to whether spousal support is appropriate. To be clear, before a Chicago area court decides how much spousal maintenance payments should be and for how long they should last, the court must first decide whether spousal support is even appropriate. If your Chicago area divorce was finalized recently and you were ordered to make spousal maintenance payments, you might be wondering if there are any factors that could change your duty to pay. In other words, when do spousal support modifications happen?

Learning More About a Substantial Change in Circumstances

Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/510) states that an order for spousal maintenance “may be modified or terminated only upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.” What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances? The statute lists the following:

  • Change in employment status of either party, including whether the employment change was made in good faith;
  • Efforts made by the payee spouse to become self-supporting;
  • Impairment of the present and future earning capacity of either party;
  • Tax consequences of maintenance payments with regard to the parties’ economic circumstances;
  • Duration of previous maintenance payments relative to the length of the marriage;
  • Property awarded to each part in the divorce;
  • Increase or decrease in either party’s income since the divorce judgment;
  • Property acquired and currently owned by each party since the divorce judgment; and
  • Any other factor that the court determines to be just and equitable.

Can Spousal Maintenance Be Modified in Any Other Circumstances?

Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/502) also allows divorcing spouses to come to an agreement about changing the length and terms of spousal maintenance, as prior Orders can be modified by agreement with Court approval. For instance, the couple can agree many changes in prior Order, such as modifying the length or amount of maintenance.

In addition to agreeing that a support award will be modifiable, couples can also agree that the payments will terminate—a type of modification, really—either upon a certain date or in the event of certain circumstances (such as the payee spouse obtaining a degree or a new position at work).

Contact a Chicago Spousal Maintenance Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about modifying spousal support, a spousal maintenance attorney in Chicago can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC for more information.