Spousal Support FAQs
Chicago Attorneys Answer Questions About Spousal Support
In most marriages, the partners do not have the same net worth, similar earning potential, or identical financial obligations. In some cases, one partner may have even sacrificed his or her career to take care of the family. Spousal support and maintenance payments in Chicago and throughout Illinois are granted on a case-by-case basis.
Since 1988, the family law attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, have helped spouses negotiate equitable maintenance payment agreements or litigated on their behalf in family court. Until recently, spousal support or maintenance payments in Illinois were determined by judges according to several factors, such as the earning potential of each spouse and their financial obligations.
Since January 2015, however, the enactment of Public Act 098-0961 has provided judges and the majority of divorcing couples with greater clarity about when maintenance payments are to be awarded and the amount of the given award.
Who Decides Spousal Support Payments in Illinois?
Until January 2015, all decisions about maintenance payments would be decided based on the discretion of a judge. Each judge, on a case-by-case basis, would decide whether to award maintenance, how much to award, and for how long the award and payments would continue.
In January 2015, the Illinois legislature enacted Public Act 098-0961, which created a set of guidelines for judges to follow when awarding maintenance payments. In most cases, support payments will be decided according to the guidelines; in some cases, judges will have discretion to deviate from the guidelines, but the deviations from the guidelines are designed to be rare.
When Do the Support Payment Guidelines Apply?
The law applies and regulates the maintenance payments awarded in family law cases where the divorcing couples make $250,000 per year or less in combined income. This income limit covers the majority of divorcing couples in Illinois.
In general, judges award maintenance payments for divorcing couples who make $250,000 a year or less in combined income according to the guidelines without deviating.
What Do Judges Consider When Awarding Support?
For couples at the $250K income level, judges award maintenance payments when there is a significant difference in earning capacity or income between the couple. The amount of the award and the duration of the maintenance payments will depend on the gross income of both individuals and the length of the marriage.
Do Judges Have to Follow the Maintenance Guidelines?
Yes and no. The answer depends on how much money the divorcing couple makes and whether there are any exceptional circumstances present in the family law case. In general, judges follow the maintenance guidelines when the divorcing couple makes $250,000 or less in combined annual income; in such cases, the guidelines must be followed by the judges in strict fashion.
There are two formulas that are are used to calculate the amount of the award and the duration of the award. However, when the combined income of the couple exceeds the $250K limit, the discretion of the judges emerges and there is room for them to deviate from the guidelines and the formulas.
Is There Any Way to Know in Advance How Much the Payments Will Be?
Each case is unique, but it is very difficult to determine in advance exactly what payments will be awarded and for which amount and for what duration.
While there is more guidance under the guidelines, maintenance payments are still complex and you should consult with an experienced Illinois family law attorney to negotiate on your behalf and to represent your interests.
Aggressive Chicago Maintenance Attorneys on Your Side
Our attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, have extensive experience in family law and will assert your rights vigorously in every relevant forum. For more than 30 years, we have helped divorcing individuals understand their rights around maintenance and support payments during a difficult time. Our attorneys are compassionate with you and aggressive with the other side.
Schedule a consultation today at (312) 332-2915 to discuss how our experienced litigators can help you get the outcome that you deserve.
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