New Illinois Maintenance (Alimony) Support Guidelines and Calculations: What Do They Mean To Me?

In Illinois, under the old statutory guidelines, judges had a lot of discretion in determining the amount and even the duration of maintenance (what many refer to as “alimony”) to be awarded between the parties in case of divorce.   While there are several specific factors the judge must take into consideration in deciding whether or not to award maintenance in any given case, it was often difficult to make an accurate prediction as to what the maintenance award would actually be, or as to how long maintenance would be paid.  Under the old statutory regime, a spouse could either be awarded temporary (or “rehabilitative”) maintenance, for them to perhaps have time to go back to school or otherwise obtain skills or training necessary for them to seek gainful employment, or the award could be permanent.

Now, under the new law that went into effect on January 1, 2015, judges still use their discretion in applying the statutory guidelines to determine if a maintenance award should be awarded, however, now the new guidelines have utilized a standardized formula to calculate the amount of maintenance awarded, as well as the duration of the payments.  Here is an example of the new guideline calculations, and how they work:

DURATION OF MAINTENANCE AWARD:

(Marriage 0-5 years) x (20%)
(Marriage 5-10 years) x (40%)
(Marriage 10-15 years) x (60%)
(Marriage 15-20 years) x (80%)
Marriages of 20+ years – court shall order either permanent maintenance or the length of the marriage

 

AMOUNT OF MAINTENANCE AWARD:

(30% of the payer’s income) – (20% of the receiver’s income)

*The receiver’s new income cannot exceed 40% of the parties’ combined income.

** Gross income is used for the maintenance award calculation, since maintenance paid to another spouse is deductible from taxable income on the paying spouses’s taxes, and counted as taxable income on the receiving spouse’s taxes.

EXAMPLES:

Maintenance Calculation on a Marriage with Two Incomes

Let’s say we have a couple who has a combined annual income of $200,000 per year, and who has been married for 16 years.

The wife’s income is $125,000 per year
The husband’s income is $75,000 per year

Assuming the court determined maintenance should be awarded, the court would calculate the maintenance award using the new formula:

($125,000) x (30%) = $37,500 (wife)
($75,000) x (20%) = $15,000 (husband)
$37,000 – 15,000 = $22,500

According to this calculation, the husband would be awarded $22,500 per year. However, when the maintenance is combined with the husband’s annual income of $75,000 it is over 40% of the couple’s combined annual income.

($200,000) x (40%) = $80,000
$22,500 + $75,000 = $97,500 (around 49%)

The husband’s maintenance award would then be decreased to around $5,000 per year to comply with the 40% rule. Finally, the court would calculate the duration of the payments.

(16 years) x (80%) = 12.8

CALCULATED AMOUNT AND DURATION OF DIVORCE MAINTENANCE AWARD

In this case, the husband would be awarded:

AMOUNT – $5,000 per year
DURATION – 12.8 years

 

Maintenance Calculation on a Marriage that Relies on One Income

Now, let’s say we have a couple with an annual income of $200,000 per year, and who has been married for 16 years, but only one of the parties earns an income.

Husband’s income – $200,000 per year
Wife’s income – $0

Assuming the court determined maintenance should be awarded, the court would calculate the maintenance award accordingly:

($200,000) x (30%) = $60,000 (husband)
($0) x (20%) = $0 (wife)
$60,000 – $0 = $60,000

According to this calculation, the wife would be awarded $60,000 per year. Since the maintenance award, when combined with the wife’s annual income of $0, is less than 40% of the couple’s combined annual income, the award does not need to be reduced to comply with the 40% rule.

($200,000) x (40%) = $80,000
$60,000 + $0 = $60,000 (equal to 30% of the couple’s annual income)

Finally, the court would calculate the duration of the divorce maintenance payments.

(16 years) x (80%) = 12.8

CALCULATED AMOUNT AND DURATION OF DIVORCE MAINTENANCE AWARD

In this case, the wife would be awarded:

AMOUNT – $60,000 per year
DURATION – 12.8 years

As you can see, the application of these new guidelines is significantly different than the way maintenance was awarded just a few years ago.  This can have a big impact on the amount and duration of the maintenance awarded in many cases.  However, the standardized formula takes a lot of the guesswork out of these type of cases, and allow the parties to more fully prepare for the impact a divorce will have on their particular situation.  Also note that the difference in the amount and duration of maintenance awarded at each separate benchmark (between 4 and 5 years, 9 and 10 years, and 19 and 20 years of marriage) is significant enough to make the potential payee spouse perhaps want to wait to file a divorce case until after that higher threshold marriage date is met.  Additionally, maintenance awards are on top of child support obligations, which also have their own statutory guideline calculations.   Additionally, as indicated above, maintenance paid is deducted from the paying spouse’s taxable income at the end of the year, while maintenance received is added to the receiving spouse’s taxable income on their annual tax returns.   All of these factors are considerations that you should keep in mind while consulting a skilled divorce attorney with regard to your particular case.