When couples terminate their marriage in Illinois, the simplest and least expensive way of doing so is filing a Joint Simplified Dissolution Procedure. This requires both spouses to cooperate in drafting a written agreement to be submitted along with their petition. Such a document details all the terms of the separation. One of the most important issues covered is that of alimony in Illinois, which is known in the state as “maintenance.”
There are three kinds of maintenance that can be applied for:
• Permanent maintenance is generally only awarded in marriages that have lasted 20 years or longer. These generally consist of monthly payments to be made indefinitely until one of the spouses dies or the person receiving alimony remarries.
• Temporary maintenance is granted for a fixed amount of time depending on the length of the marriage. These payments may cease at any time or otherwise be modified.
• Rehabilitative maintenance is designed to help spouses while they receive the education or training necessary to re-enter the work force and become financially self-sustaining.
Whatever the requested form of alimony in Illinois, it is important for couples to explain their plans in as much detail as possible. Because judges are granted the power to take into consideration any factor they consider relevant to the case, spouses who prepare a separation agreement should be mindful of the following:
• Their combined gross income and assets
• The standard of living established during the marriage
• How much time is required for the person seeking alimony in Illinois to become financially independent and regain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
• Each parties’ earning ability
• Each parties’ financial needs and obligations
• Any tax consequences related to the division of shared property
• Whether the person seeking alimony in Illinois is a custodial parent for whom it would be desirable to be a stay-at-home parent rather than seek work
There are no official state guidelines to be followed when awarding alimony payments. You may be able to find an alimony calculator online that can give you a rough approximation of what you can expect to pay or request based on your income and tax status, but there is no exact formula to apply.
For this reason, couples who do not wish to submit to the unpredictable ruling of a judge who cannot reach an agreement between themselves may decide to share the cost of the services of a lawyer specializing in divorce mediation. This attorney will provide neutral advice and help craft a legally sound document that can be approved for court approval. Should the parties be unable to resolve their difference, one or both may decide to seek private legal counsel to represent them in court. This divorce mediation lawyer cannot represent either spouse during the hearing.
No matter how mutually amicable the agreement submitted to the court, a judge has the final authority in deciding the amount granted for any alimony in Illinois.