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How maintenance is calculated

Divorce Maintenance: Who is Responsible and How Maintenance is Calculated

Categorized as Divorce

What is Maintenance?

Divorce Maintenance (formerly known as Alimony) is financial support that the court orders a spouse to pay when the other spouse needs financial help.  Maintenance is usually paid to the spouse monthly for a certain length of time or permanently.  Maintenance is also referred to as Spousal Support. Here, I will discuss Divorce Maintenance in Illinois and cover the most important questions we hear from our clients – who is responsible and how maintenance is calculated.

Who is Responsible for paying Maintenance (Spousal Support)

In a divorce action, Maintenance (sometimes referred to as alimony or Spousal Support) is determined by Illinois law and at the discretion of the judge.  Once the court determines that Maintenance is appropriate in a case, the spouse who has the higher income is responsible for paying the spouse with the lower income, Maintenance.  I know a lot of people out there may think that it is the husband who would be responsible for paying maintenance, but that is not always the case.  Traditionally, it was usually the husbands who were the breadwinners in the household while the wives who forewent a career or education to take care of the household and the children.  Now, it is becoming more common for husbands to ask the court for maintenance from their wives.

The judge in a divorce case will use the statutory factors listed in section 504(a) of the Marriage and Dissolution Act  to decide which spouse will be responsible in paying maintenance.  The statutory factors that helps the judge determine which spouse is responsible for Maintenance include:

  • Income and property of each spouse, as well as all the financial obligations imposed on the spouses because of the divorce
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The present and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • Any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the spouse who put off having an education or career because of the marriage
  • How long it will take the spouse to obtain education, training and employment
  • The standard of living the spouse has been accustomed to during the marriage
  • How long the spouses were married
  • Each spouse’s age, health, and occupation
  • The tax consequences
  • Whether the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the education, training, or career of the other spouse, and
  • Any valid agreement between the spouses.

How Maintenance is Calculated

Once the court determines maintenance is appropriate, and which spouse will be responsible for paying maintenance to the other spouse, the judge will then calculate how much maintenance a spouse will receive.  Before 2015, the judges were given discretion in determining how much maintenance a spouse receives.  As of January 1, 2015, Maintenance is now calculated using a mathematical standardized formula that is listed in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The formula is applied when the combined gross income of the spouses is less than $500,000 and the payor spouse has no obligation to pay child support or Maintenance from a prior relationship. The formula for Maintenance is calculated by taking 30% of the payor spouse’s gross annual income minus 20% of the payee’s gross annual income. The amount that is calculated as Maintenance cannot result in the payee spouse receiving more than 40% of the combined gross income of both spouses. The statute also provides a formula for the length of time a spouse will receive Maintenance. The following calculates the duration:

  • less than 5 years (.20);
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24);
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28);
  • 7 years or more but less than 8 years (.32);
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36);
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40);
  • 10 years or more but less than 11 years (.44);
  • 11 years or more but less than 12 years (.48);
  • 12 years or more but less than 13 years (.52);
  • 13 years or more but less than 14 years (.56);
  • 14 years or more but less than 15 years (.60);
  • 15 years or more but less than 16 years (.64);
  • 16 years or more but less than 17 years (.68);
  • 17 years or more but less than 18 years (.72);
  • 18 years or more but less than 19 years (.76);
  • 19 years or more but less than 20 years (.80).
  • 20 or more years: the court, in its discretion, shall order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.

To illustrate how a Maintenance award would be calculated using the statutory formula, lets use a scenario where the husband and wife’s combined annual gross income is $140,000 and they have been married for 11 years.


The wife’s income is $100,000 per year

The husband’s income is $50,000 per year

$100,000 x .30 = $30,000 (wife)

$40,000 x .20 = $8,000 (husband)

$30,000 – $8,000 = $22,000

According to this formula, the husband would be awarded $22,000 a year in Maintenance, and the $22,000 is not more than 40% of the combined annual gross income.  If the maintenance award were more than the 40% then the award will be decreased in order to comply with the 40% statutory amount.

To calculate the duration of Maintenance using the duration formula: (11 years) x (.48) = 5.28

In this scenario the husband will be awarded:  $22,000 per year for 5.28 years.

The divorce and spousal legal support is intricate and personalized.  The Anderson & Boback attorneys are skilled in all facets to divorce and family law.  Contact Kimberly J. Anderson about this topic or  related maintenance questions.


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