One of the biggest concerns anyone anticipating a divorce or going through a divorce has is whether or not he or she is going to have to pay maintenance or alimony to the other spouse. The issue of maintenance, or whether one spouse has to pay money to assist in supporting the other spouse after divorce, can become one of the most hotly contested issues in any divorce case. The key question that anyone involved in a divorce case where maintenance is a potential issue is how much could I have to pay and for how long?
The legislature in Illinois has recently helped to answer that question with the passage of Public Act 098-0961. Under the new law, once the court determines that maintenance is appropriate in a specific case, the court must apply a formula that uses the gross income of both parties and the length of the marriage to determine the amount and duration of any award of maintenance.
If the court decides that maintenance is appropriate in a case and also determines that applying the formula as per the new maintenance statute would not be appropriate in a case, the court must first state what the guideline amount of maintenance would be and then must provide specific reasons to support its decision to deviate from the guidelines.
The new maintenance law also has an impact on child support awards in divorce cases. Under the new law, if the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, the amount of maintenance being paid by one parent will now count as a deduction in calculating the net income of that parent for the purposes of determining child support. So, in other words, if a parent is ordered to pay maintenance to the other parent in a divorce as well as child support, the amount of maintenance being ordered will be subtracted off that parent’s gross income to determine that parent’s net income, along with federal and state taxes, social security, mandatory retirement contributions, union dues, health/hospital insurance premiums for that parent and any dependents, and any support or maintenance payments being paid as a result of prior cases not involving the current parties. As was the case under the prior law, child support is still calculated as 20% of a parent’s net income for one child, 28% for two children, 32% for three children, 40% for four children, 45% for five children and 50% for six or more children.
In a majority of cases, the new law will help to make overall payments for maintenance and child support more predictable moving forward. Additionally, the deduction of maintenance from net income in the calculation of child support helps to credit parents paying for both child support and maintenance appropriately.