Despite best intentions, not all marriages last forever. And coming to an individual or mutual decision to end the marriage is a difficult journey for both spouses. Divorce dredges up feelings of anger, disappointment, sadness, regret and even resentment. Whether one or both spouses wish to dissolve the marriage, it is hard choice and what follows is something few people are prepared for.
Having a peaceful and amicable divorce is what most couples are absolutely certain can happen, but the animosity generally begins when conversations around property, child support or alimony commence. There is a tremendous financial cost to divorce and the reality of those costs and the impact on the lifestyle and affluence for both spouses is sobering. Moving from a double income family to a single income situation is hard, and requires financial and emotional adjustment.
Before you begin to discuss some of the financial changes and responsibilities that will be negotiated as part of your divorce proceedings, it is important to understand your rights and the protection that is provided by the law for divorcing spouses. By having the right information you can prepare yourself for the next steps, and for ensuring that your interests are served fairly throughout the divorce proceedings.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a measure of income before and after the divorce, and a legal method of equalizing that income to insure that both spouses have adequate financial means. The first text in human history to outline the requirement of a man to “provide sustenance to a woman and the children born to him” actually appears in 1754 BC, in a document called “The Code of Hammurabi”.
In the United States the laws that outline alimony and the limitations vary from State to State. It is important to note that alimony is not based on gender, but rather on income and financial means. Men who divorce are also able to be awarded alimony if their spouse has resources, wealth or potential earnings that greatly exceed those of his wife. Some famous cases of husbands who were awarded alimony include Britney Spears, Victoria Principal and Jessica Simpson.
Alimony in the State of Illinois
In the State of Illinois, there are three types of alimony that can be awarded to either spouse in divorce proceedings. It is up to the Judge to determine which type of alimony serves the family’s best interest depending on individual circumstances.
Historically alimony in the state has been awarded in one of three categories.
- Temporary Support (for the duration of divorce proceedings only)
- Short-Term Support (for the duration it takes for the spouse to find employment or complete retraining to find employment)
- Long-Term Support (for long duration marriages support can be requested for up to six years after the initial divorce date or longer, depending on what the judge deems appropriate)
Changes to Alimony Law in Illinois
In January of 2015, Senate Bill 3231 was passed which amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/504. The amendments allow the judge to determine whether or not a spouse is entitled to alimony based on practical factors including the length of the marriage, the amenities and standard of lifestyle provided to the spouse during the marriage and the real income needs of both spouses after the divorce.
One of the most interesting new changes to the laws pertaining to alimony in Illinois allows a judge to look at missed opportunities. For instance, if one spouse remained home to care for the family or for child care in lieu of pursuing post-secondary education or career opportunities, that factor can weigh in their favor. The new law does not weigh in other obligations (including first marriage alimony or child support payments for a previous marriage or other “multiple family” circumstances).
The new law requires that if the combined family income is less than $250,000 per year that the amount of alimony payable is based on a calculation that is determined by length of marriage and a factor:
- 0-5 years (0.20)
- 5-10 years (.40)
- 10-15 years (.60)
- 15-20 years (.80)
- 20+ years (1.0) or permanent maintenance.
According to the state of Illinois, it is fair to receive increased compensation based on the duration of time that was spent in the marriage. The argument is that the spouse entitled to support invested significant time into the marriage, and deserves to be compensated for that without experiencing the disadvantage of a dramatic decline in lifestyle or income.
Given the recent changes to the Illinois law governing divorce, a family law attorney in Chicago can provide the best advice and guidance for your individual circumstances. Before you start to discuss alimony with your spouse, make an appointment to speak to a legal professional first to protect your rights and ensure you receive what you are entitled to.