Maintenance previously referred to as “Alimony” had a recent revamp in Illinois. Maintenance in Illinois is governed by 750 ILCS 5/504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Under the previous version of Section 504 the maintenance guidelines only applied to divorces when the couple had a combined gross annual income of less than $250,000. Section 504 was recently amended, and the amendment became effective on January 1, 2018, which increased the combined gross annual income to be less than $500,000.
As most couples in Illinois have a combined gross annual income that is less than half-a-million dollars, the amendment to Section 504 affects the vast majority of couples that are filing for divorce here in Illinois. If a couple that is going through a divorce has a combined annual income in excess of $500,000, then the court can set maintenance at any amount and for any duration as it deems necessary and appropriate. When the couple has a combined gross annual income that is less than $500,000, the court can also deviate from the guidelines of Section 504, but the court must make special findings and disclose the special findings.
The Illinois Legislature amended Section 504 with the thought and hope that the guidelines set out in the statute would add certainty to maintenance and clarify the extremely varying rulings on maintenance. Without the fixed guidelines, couples going through a divorce could have an extreme result of zero maintenance, when a similarly situated couple would end up with maintenance for the remainder of their life. These large deviations were a result of the judge’s discretion who would be overseeing the divorce proceeding. The Illinois Legislature wanted to give clarity to those couples going through a divorce and even out the playing field so that all the maintenance awards would be much more similar.
The calculation for the amount of maintenance for couples with a combined annual income in excess of $500,000 is set out in Section 504(B)(1). 750 ILCS 5/504(B)(1).
An example under the Section 504 calculation, if the husband earns $100,000 per year and the wife earns $10,000 per year, the wife would likely be granted maintenance and the calculation would be: 1. $100,000 x 30% = $30,000; 2. -$10,000 x 20% = $2,000; 3. $30,000 – $2,000 = $28,000 / 12 = $2,333.33 per month.
Next, the court would make a determination of the duration of the maintenance, again based on Section 504. Thus, if a marriage is five years or less then the duration of the maintenance would be multiped by .2 and then the calculation would vary by any years in excess of five years based on the guideline in Section 504. The length of the marriage is determined by the date of the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. Another caveat for maintenance determinations is when a marriage was for twenty or more years. When there is a marriage of twenty years or more, the court in its discretion can order maintenance for a period of time equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite time.
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