Illinois courts are authorized to order spousal maintenance in lawsuits involving divorces or legal separations. A court’s discretion is broad and a court can order maintenance “in amounts and for periods of time as the court deems just” so long as it expressly considers a variety of relevant factors and follows statutory guidelines.
However, people’s circumstances change, which can result in a payor’s inability to continue afford the court ordered maintenance payments, or in a receiving party’s need for additional support. If you are ordered to pay spousal maintenance and can no longer afford to pay, the last thing that you want to do is to stop paying or to ignore the order. This is a violation of a court order and can open you up to enforcement action and contempt. Instead, you need to speak with an attorney to discuss modifying your spousal maintenance order.
Spousal Maintenance Modification
Illinois law expressly allows for either spouse to seek a modification of a spousal maintenance order. In order to obtain a modification of an existing spousal maintenance order, a party asking for the change must demonstrate a “substantial change in circumstances”.
When determining whether to modify or terminate a maintenance obligation, the court must consider the factors that led to the original maintenance order, which includes: the income and property of the parties, the duration of the marriage, their ages, their needs and standard of living, their earning capacity, contributions to the marriage, whether one spouse sacrificed earning capacity to maintain the household, and the time it will take a receiving spouse to become adequately employed.
In addition, the court must consider additional factors, including:
- Whether either party has had a change in their employment status, and whether that change was made in good faith;
- Any increase or decrease in income for either party;
- Whether the party receiving support has made reasonable efforts to become self-supporting;
- Impairments which affect the present and future earning capacity of either party;
- The tax consequences of the maintenance payments; however, it is noteworthy that the new tax law has eliminated this as a tax deduction or as reportable income for the IRS;
- How long a party has been making maintenance payments compared to the actual length of the marriage;
- The results of the property division from the parties’ divorce;
- Any property that either party has acquired following their divorce; and
- Any other factor a court finds to be “just and equitable”.
As you can see, the focus is on fairness, on whether the parties are acting in good faith, and whether a receiving party is being unjustly enriched given the totality of their circumstances.
The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas Can Help You
The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas guides clients through the complex and difficult issues that arise out of divorces and legal separations. This includes property division proceedings and maintenance orders. I have practiced law for over twenty years and take pride in providing tough, thorough legal advocacy. If you need help, contact us today. Call the Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas at 847-392-5893 to schedule a consultation or visit our website today.