Divorce is expensive. There is no way around that. Between lawyers and filing fees, along with the emotional cost, it can get expensive to get divorced. It also does not help that partners are not always on the same grounds financially when getting divorced. For example, one spouse may earn less due to their chosen career. Perhaps one partner could be unable to work due to disability or illness. Maybe when the couple was together, they decided that one partner would be a house spouse. Whatever the reason, divorce can be more complicated for the spouse who earns less.
Suppose a spouse is in a situation where they cannot provide for themselves when their marriage breaks up. In that case, the courts can order temporary maintenance, commonly known as alimony, during the divorce proceedings.
This is the case because if one spouse was a higher income earner than the other, the higher earner spouse would be able to out-litigate the lower earner and force the other spouse to settle. To even out the playing field, courts offer temporary maintenance, legal fees, child support, and other such expenses based on the couple’s needs.
How Is the Need for Temporary Maintenance Determined?
To ask for temporary maintenance (or child support), to requesting party must file a motion for temporary maintenance. That motion must include proof that there is a financial need. From there, the court will look at the finances and determine the need of the parties.
The need can be demonstrated with financial documents like financial affidavits, pay stubs, tax returns, etc. And then, the judge will decide based on a hearing. For example, the court will usually base the maintenance award on the previous year’s taxes.
The amount will likely follow the maintenance calculations prescribed by law and will use that to calculate the amount. However, the count can choose to deviate from these guidelines. The court will take into account several factors in awarding fees and deviating. The factors that it will take into account are the issues in divorce, as complex divorces will have higher litigation fees. Courts also look at the realistic earning potential of both parties and the income of the parties. The courts also review the standard of living that the parties are used to and other factors like this.
For example, suppose one partner is left in a situation where they would not be able to pay rent using the statutory calculation. In that case, the court will make the maintenance award higher, so both parties can be secure in their financial situation. Or, if one person left and is in a situation where they don’t have to worry about expenses, then the court might award a lower amount for maintenance.
How Long Will I Receive Temporary Maintenance?
Illinois awards maintenance based on the length of the marriage, not the relationship. For example, if a couple was together for thirty years but were only married in the last two years, the marriage would be considered a two-year marriage for maintenance calculations.
What Does the Court Look at When Deciding if I Get Maintenance?
The court looks at several factors when deciding whether or not maintenance should be awarded. First, the court would look at the earning potential of both spouses, for example, if one spouse chose to build a career vs. staying at home to raise children. The court also considers the age of the partners, as there would be less time to make a career if one of the divorcing partners were elderly. The court would also look at the health of both parties. For example, if both parties worked during the marriage but one party was injured and unable to work, the courts would likely deviate and award maintenance.
What Happens If There is a Significant Change?
Financial situations change. If a situation changes during the divorce process, temporary support can be modified.
The court evaluates modification requests on if there is a significant change in circumstances. A significant change can include but is not limited to a new job, a promotion, or being fired. The significant change also includes being injured, getting sick, or any other event that changes the expected earnings of one of the spouses. A significant change could also be one party being self-sufficient.
For example, suppose the person receiving temporary maintenance comes into a large inheritance and no longer has any financial needs. In that case, the paying party can request to modify maintenance since the other party is self-sufficient and no longer needs assistance. The party receiving maintenance can also request a modification if the paying party gets promoted or a new job and there is a massive increase in their earnings.
If My Spouse Loses His Job, Does He Get To Stop Paying Maintenance?
If a substantial change in circumstance occurs, you will need to investigate whether the change was within the other person’s control. Your spouse quitting his job may not lead to a modification of your maintenance award because it was not mandatory to quit. However, if your spouse was fired due to downsizing, the maintenance may be modified. Each case depends on the facts in the case. For example, suppose a job loss is involuntary. In that case, the court will likely allow the modification versus a voluntary loss of employment, like quitting their job.
If one party wants to modify spousal maintenance, then the party must file a motion to modify with the court that the case has been in. Since temporary maintenance and support are not final orders, they are not appealable through a higher court. Instead, they would need to go through the same court. After the Court reviews and looks at the change in the situation, the court will either decide to maintain the original maintenance order or modify it.
What Happens to Temporary Maintenance at the End of a Divorce Case?
When the divorce is granted in Illinois, temporary maintenance may give way to permanent or reviewable maintenance. A permanent maintenance award typically means you will receive maintenance until your spouse files a motion to modify or terminate it. On the other hand, a reviewable maintenance award is reviewed at a future date. Or when there is a substantial change in circumstances. Reviewable maintenance may be reviewed five years in the future, for example, to see if the person has completed college and obtained employment or for the spouse to re-enter the workforce. Each case is different depending on the facts. You should speak to a divorce attorney in Chicago to see if maintenance is necessary if you need it, and for how long you should receive it.