What Should I Do About Spousal Support If I Lost My Job?

What Should I Do About Spousal Support If I Lost My Job?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

During a divorce in Chicago, many parties seek spousal support or alimony, also known as spousal maintenance. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), when one of the parties requests spousal support, the court must first determine whether spousal support is appropriate in that particular case. The process of deciding whether a spouse should receive support occurs on a case-by-case basis, with the court considering many different facts pertaining to the married couple getting divorced.

Whether or not the court does award spousal support when the divorce is finalized, both parties often want to move forward with their lives. Yet in situations where spousal maintenance is awarded and one of the parties experiences a significant change in financial circumstances, that party may need to modify spousal support. If one of the spouses loses his/her job, it may be necessary to modify the spousal support order.

Modifying Spousal Support Due to a Substantial Change in Circumstances

The IMDMA permits spousal support orders to be modified only if the party seeking to modify can prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the prior support order did prohibit a change. While the definition of a “substantial change in circumstances” is not clarified absolutely in the statute, the following are examples that may meet the definition:

  • Change in either spouse’s income;
  • Change in either party’s health;
  • Either party becomes disabled;
  • Receiving party fails to take steps to become self-sufficient; or
  • Change in either party’s assets.

In most situations, job loss will constitute a substantial change in circumstances and will allow for a modification.

When the Paying Spouse Loses His/Her Job

If the spouse who pays spousal support loses his/her job and cannot make spousal maintenance payments, that spouse will need to file a petition to modify spousal maintenance. Typically, a job loss of the paying spouse will be considered a substantial change in circumstances if the spouse did not quit his/her job for the sole purpose of avoiding spousal support payments. The court will also likely expect that spouse to seek alternate employment. 

When the Receiving Spouse Loses His/Her Job

If the receiving spouse loses his/her job, that spouse also might be able to modify the spousal support order to receive additional money for a period of time. However, the court will not modify the order if there is evidence the spouse quit his/her job in order to receive additional maintenance and failing to seek alternate employment could put that spouse’s maintenance payments at risk altogether.

Contact a Spousal Support Attorney in the Chicago area

When the need arises to modify spousal support, the process ahead can feel daunting. For many spouses who petition for a spousal support modification, the need arises from a job loss. It is important to discuss the particular facts of your case with a Chicago area spousal support lawyer to determine whether the changes you have recently experienced are likely to qualify as a “substantial change in circumstances” under Illinois law. If so, you may be able to ask the court to modify spousal support. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to speak with one of our divorce lawyers about getting this process started.