When a couple goes through a divorce, there are many issues that could arise. Two of the largest issues in a divorce are spousal support or maintenance (formerly alimony) and the division of marital assets.
Spousal Support, Maintenance and Alimony in Illinois
Maintenance or alimony as it is commonly called is the payment of a sum of money on a regular basis. Maintenance can be permanent or temporary in nature. Maintenance is governed by Section 504 of the IMDMA. Pursuant to the statutes, the court looks at 14 factors to determine whether a spousal maintenance award is appropriate. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:
- The income and property of each party;
- The needs of each party;
- The realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- All sources of public and private income;
- The contributions and services of the parties seeking maintenance to the ability of the other spouse’s education or employment; and
- Any other factors the court finds just and equitable.
Amount and Duration of Spousal Maintenance
Once the Court determines that a spousal maintenance award is appropriate, the Court will look at the amount and duration. The statute contains the calculation to determine how much maintenance and for what period of time. Typically, length of the maintenance award shall not exceed the length of the marriage. If a couple was married for five years, the maintenance award will not exceed five years unless there are other extreme factors justifying a longer length of maintenance.
Dividing Property and Marital Assets in Illinois
Illinois law also governs the division of marital assets. The Court attempts for an “equitable distribution” of marital assets. Equitable does not always mean equal. The Court looks at several factors provided in Illinois law to determine how to divide the marital assets. Some of the factors include:
- Each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, or increase or decrease in value of the marital or non-marital property;
- the value of the property assigned to each spouse:
- the duration of the marriage;
- the relevant economic circumstances of each spouse when the division of property is to become effective;
- Age, health, and occupation of each spouse;
- Whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance; and
- The reasonable opportunity of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income.
Calculating Spousal Support and Maintenance
When a couple are both employed and earn substantially the same amount, the calculation for maintenance is easy. In that instance, the calculation for division of marital assets is easy as well. However, when the incomes are not equal and the assets are one-sided, the court tries to balance the assets and maintenance so each party will be able to provide for their own needs.
For example, if one party earns all the income, but the other party has several non-marital assets, the Court should take that into consideration when awarding spousal maintenance. If the non-income-earning spouse can live a similar lifestyle off of the interest of her non-marital assets, then the Court may not award maintenance or may award less maintenance.
Maintenance and Property Division in Long-Term Marriages
Maintenance and division of marital assets can become more complicated the longer a marriage lasts. When you look at marriages that are twenty (20) years or more in length with substantial assets and possibly high incomes, the court typically will focus more on the standard of living during the marriage and future earning capacities. Even when both spouses are able to support themselves with their incomes, the court can still award maintenance or an unequal proportion of the marital estate so that the parties can maintain a similar lifestyle to the one enjoyed during the marriage.
For example, in Brankin v. Brankin, 967 N.E.2d 358, 361 (Ill. App. 2012), both parties had income sufficient to support themselves and substantial assets. The court, in this case, awarded the husband more of the marital assets but then awarded the wife permanent maintenance. The greater award of marital assets was due to the husband’s contribution toward the assets and his ability to maintain the assets. The maintenance award to the wife was based on the length of the marriage and the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.
Focus on Factors Relevant to Your Divorce Case
While the lists of factors for both maintenance and division of marital assets can be overwhelming, the court can put more weight on some factors than others. It is important to focus the court on the factors relevant to your specific case. Make sure the Court understands the nature of the marital assets being divided and how that division affects the ability of each spouse to support themselves which in turn, affects the maintenance award.
If you are wondering about spousal maintenance and property division if you and your spouse divorce, it is important to get sound legal advice. Contact Anderson & Boback to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer about your situation and learn more about spousal support and division of marital assets.