Well, it was bound to happen. The Illinois Legislature has enacted new rules regarding maintenance (formerly known as alimony). Over the years, maintenance payments covered a patchwork of varying amounts and duration. In some cases, maintenance was allowed, and in some seemingly similar circumstances, maintenance was not allowed, or allowed for a markedly different duration or for a significantly higher or greater amount. In many of those instances an evaluation of the “factors” could still not explain the differences. Some litigants began to feel that the award of maintenance as more of a “crap shoot” than anything for which they could adequately plan.
Here is the “skinny” on the changes:
Under 750 ILCS 5/504 (a) the court must first determine whether a maintenance award is appropriate, after consideration of all relevant factors, including:
(1) the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance;
(2) the needs of each party;
(3) the present and future earning capacity of each party;
(4) any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;
(5) the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child making it appropriate that the custodian not seek employment;
(6) the standard of living established during the marriage;
(7) the duration of the marriage;
(8) the age and physical and emotional condition of both parties;
(9) the tax consequences of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;
(10) contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;
(11) any valid agreement of the parties; and
(12) any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.
Once the court determines that an award of maintenance is appropriate from an analysis of the above factors, then the court will determine whether the maintenance award is based upon “guidelines.”
Under 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1)(1)(A):
Guidelines maintenance is determined by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. This primary maintenance amount is then subject to a “cap” by adding this amount of primary maintenance to the gross income of the payee. The primary maintenance added to the gross income of the payee cannot be more than 40% of their (both parties’) combined gross income.
Under 504 (b-1)(1)(B):
The duration of an award under paragraph (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); or 15-20 years (.80). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
The remaining sections of the new maintenance statute require the judge to make specific findings of fact that support the award of maintenance or the refusal to award maintenance. There are also rules requiring the court to state its reasons for deviating from the above guidelines.