Beginning January 1, 2015, significant changes will take effect in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. For divorcing couples in Illinois, 2015 will bring standardized rules for determining the amount and length of court-ordered financial support payments (aka spousal maintenance or alimony) by one spouse to the other. It appears there will be no change in how the court decides whether or not maintenance is necessary. This post will focus on the Amended Spousal Maintenance Laws for 2015.
• Proposed Changes – Currently there is a great deal of subjectivity in spousal maintenance decisions which have led to inconsistent maintenance awards in Illinois. The inconsistent awards stem from the permitted subjectivity and discretion of a Judge who is influenced by their own personal background and experience.
When the new law takes effect, the court must follow updated guidelines based on a mathematical formula that uses the income percentages of both spouses as well as the length of the marriage.
These guidelines should help judges to more easily and objectively determine both the amount and length of any financial support, making awards more predictable and consistent.
This in turn should help prevent additional appeals litigation, reduce divorce attorney fees and decrease frustration for divorcing couples by providing realistic expectations of what will be paid or received.
• Who It Affects – These new rules will primarily apply to divorcing couples with a combined household income of $250,000 or less and where neither person has children from a previous marriage.
• One Caution – The court isn't obligated to follow the new formula to determine a maintenance award. It, however, must create findings that clearly explain why it did not follow the formula.
• Proposed Changes – Current law prevents a Judge from terminating maintenance payments awarded for a fixed period of time without consent of both spouses. In other words, court ordered maintenance payments are always reviewable under current Illinois law.
Under the new law, Illinois divorce courts will now have the authority to block renewals of fixed-term maintenance payments without the agreement of both divorcing parties.
A terminating maintenance award protects the paying party from the financial difficulty of unexpected payment continuation because the receiving party cannot return and ask the court for a time extension.
• Who It Affects – Couples married less than ten years will feel the most impact from these changes.
Contact me today to learn the specifics of this new law, how they would impact your divorce proceedings and how I can help you navigate this updated process. Our clients have had great success with a determining their maintenance obligations with our guidance and knowledge of the Amended Spousal Maintenance Laws in Illinois.
Schedule a Consultation with Attorney Erin Birt