As you begin divorce proceedings, you may have concerns about providing your spouse maintenance. While their award depends on your marital circumstances, you will likely fear its impact on your finances. Since Illinois recently adopted new maintenance laws, these may confuse you, too. But by learning about them, you can understand what your obligation might look like.

Making sense of Illinois’ laws

Illinois courts use one formula to calculate the number of years your maintenance obligation will last. And they use another to determine the value of your spouse’s yearly award. The first formula takes a percentage of your marriage’s length to determine the duration of maintenance. If your marriage lasted less than five years, you will provide maintenance for 20% of its length. This amount increases by four percent for every additional year you were married, up to 20 years. If your marriage lasted 20 or more years, your award will last the length of your marriage – or indefinitely, depending on your spouse’s needs.

The second formula uses the difference between you and your spouse’s incomes to determine your yearly obligation. If your household’s total earnings are less than $500,000, this amount will be 33% of your net income minus 25% of your spouse’s. Yet, your yearly obligation, combined with your spouse’s income, may be greater than 40% of your combined net income. In this case, your obligation will reduce so it does not exceed this figure. If your household’s total earnings are greater than $500,000, a judge will determine your spouse’s award based on your unique financial situation.

Other factors affecting maintenance

Illinois courts will also consider your marital circumstances when determining your maintenance obligation. A judge cannot take you and your spouse’s marital conduct into account when making their decision. But they will weigh any other relevant factors, including:

  • You and your spouse’s shared lifestyle
  • You and your spouse’s future earning potential
  • You and your spouse’s division of marital duties
  • Whether your spouse requires education or job training to become self-supporting

If you and your spouse earn similar incomes, you may not be ordered to provide them maintenance. While many Illinois divorces include it, state courts do not mandate an award in every case.