In the state of Illinois, alimony, typically known as maintenance, may be granted during a divorce action, a declaration of invalidity of marriage (annulment), or for a legal separation. Illinois courts will grant one of three different types of maintenance:

  • Temporary – which is granted only during the legal proceedings;
  • Permanent; or
  • Rehabilitative, Periodic or Reviewable – wherein the spouse who is seeking maintenance will work to eventually become self-supporting.

Permanent alimony is typically awarded when the spouses are terminating a lengthy marriage (20 years or more) and the spouse seeking maintenance stayed home throughout most of the marriage while the other spouse worked full-time and continues to earn a comfortable income. This form of alimony is becoming less common, and continues until a terminating event occurs. This happens when one of the following circumstances transpires:

  • The ex-spouse receiving maintenance dies.
  • The ex-spouse paying maintenance dies.
  • The ex-spouse receiving maintenance marries again.
  • The ex-spouse receiving maintenance begins physically residing with another party on the basis of conjugal cohabitation. Conjugal doesn’t necessarily refer to a sexual relationship, but rather an intimate affiliation wherein the lives of both parties are intertwined on a social, psychological and financial basis.
  • The ex-spouse paying maintenance retires.

In the case of periodic or rehabilitative maintenance, typically the parties have been married between 10 and 20 years and both spouses have comparable educational backgrounds. The spouse seeking maintenance left a full-time position early in the marriage to raise the couple’s children, who are still young and require caretaking. The payor spouse is gainfully employed and earning a comfortable wage. In these types of circumstances, the court usually orders periodic alimony for a finite period of time. Alternatively, if a qualifying reviewable event occurs, either of the parties may ask for a modification or termination of alimony, as applicable. These events include the follow

  • The ex-spouse receiving alimony attains a certain level of education.
  • The income of the spouse paying alimony decreases or increases significantly.
  • The income of the ex-spouse receiving alimony increases significantly.
  • The predetermined time frame has expired.
  • A child begins attending school or reaches a predetermined age.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act governs the award of alimony. There is no strict formula in Illinois for arriving at a spousal support award. Instead, the courts consider many relevant factors to determine whether to award alimony, what form to award, the amount and the length.

Alimony, as it relates to Illinois Marriage and Divorce Law, considers the following when awarding maintenance:

  • The income each spouse earns;
  • The property each spouse owns, which includes marital property and how it is distributed to each party, and the non-marital property owned by the spouse seeking alimony;
  • The needs of each spouse;
  • The current earning capacity of each spouse, and their potential future earning capacity;
  • Whether the current and/or future earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance is impaired by this party’s contributions to domestic duties, whether s/he delayed or completely neglected his/her education, employment, career opportunities, and/or training due to the marriage;
  • The length of time required by the spouse seeking maintenance to educate her/himself, receive training, and obtain employment, and whether s/he will be self-supporting or the need to care for a child makes employment inappropriate;
  • The standard of living that existed during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage’
  • The ages, and emotional and physical condition of both spouses;
  • How the property division impacts the tax obligations and resulting economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • Any contributions the spouse seeking alimony made to the other party’s education, career or career potential, training and/or professional license;
  • Any applicable valid contract or agreement between the spouses; and
  • And other factors the court making the alimony determination expressly deems is equitable and just.