Alimony, which is also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support in Illinois, consists of payments which are paid in regular, cyclical installments from one ex-spouse to another ex-spouse. Alimony payments are usually associated with a divorce or legal separation.

Pursuant to Illinois alimony laws, as part of a divorce case, a judge may determine that one ex-spouse should pay the other monthly support payments. These payments are intended to cover the individual’s basic necessities including food, clothing, and shelter.

Alimony payments are made separately from payments an individual may be required to make for child support as required due to circumstances related to child custody. Alimony payments may help the receiving party become financially stable following the divorce or legal separation.

This is common in cases where one spouse was depending on the other spouse to be able to pay their living expenses. In the State of Illinois, in order to be eligible for alimony, the spouses must have been legally married.

Either a husband or a wife may qualify for alimony. If a spouse involved in a divorce in Illinois cannot support themselves or maintain a reasonable standard of living by themselves during or after the divorce may petition the court to receive alimony.

A court will evaluate all of the factors related to the marriage and the divorce in order to determine whether or not alimony should be granted to the petitioning spouse. In Illinois, a court will only grant a party spousal support or maintenance if they are unable to support themselves.

The court has discretion regarding whether or not to award permanent support, or fixed support, which expires after a certain amount of time has passed.

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in Illinois?

In Illinois, the duration of alimony will depend on the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted less than 5 years, alimony payments last for 20% of the duration of the marriage.

If the marriage lasted 9-10 years, the alimony payments will last 40% of the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted 20 years or more, alimony may last as long as the marriage lasted, or indefinitely.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive in Illinois?

Pursuant to Illinois alimony rules, the amount of alimony a spouse can receive depends upon a list of factors which are reviewed by the court, including:

  • The age, physical condition, and emotional condition of the petitioning spouse;
  • Earning ability of the petitioning spouse;
  • The ability of the receiving spouse to meet their own needs;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Whether there was any domestic abuse in the relationship; and
  • The present and future earning capacity of each spouse.

There is no set formula for determining alimony in Illinois. A court will review the factors listed above and determine the amount of alimony as well as the duration of alimony payments.

Is Alimony Taxable in Illinois?

In Illinois, as of January 1, 2019, the spouse who is paying alimony is no longer permitted to deduct maintenance costs on their Illinois and federal tax forms. The party who receives the spousal support payments does not have to declare them as taxable income.

How Long Does Alimony Last in Illinois?

Alimony, or spousal support, is paid out until the receiving spouse has a way to support themselves. In Illinois, a court may order different types of alimony, including:

Temporary alimony is granted when the receiving spouse only requires support to live during the period between filing for the divorce and the dissolution of the marriage. Short-term alimony is granted when the receiving spouse desires to get an education or the skills needed for them to earn a living.

Permanent alimony is granted if the receiving spouse has significant financial needs and is unable to support themselves following the termination of the marriage. In Illinois, alimony payments terminate upon the death of the paying spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse.

In addition, if the receiving spouse gets temporary alimony payments in order to obtain an education and they do so and become self-supporting, their alimony payments will terminate.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

In Illinois, a party petitions for alimony during a divorce proceeding. When an individual files for divorce, they must also petition for spousal support, maintenance, or alimony.

Alimony is not guaranteed in a divorce case and is not a given unless it is requested. Once alimony is requested by a spouse, the court will examine the different factors discussed above in order to determine whether a petitioner should receive alimony as part of their divorce.

Obtaining a divorce as well as requesting alimony may be a complicated process which requires assistance from a divorce attorney or a family lawyer. An individual’s lawyer can assist them with filing a request for alimony, termination of alimony, and any other necessary requests.

If an individual is the spouse who is required to make alimony payments and they need to have the alimony order modified, it is important to continue making the required payments so that they are not held in contempt of court.

Not making the alimony payments would be considered a violation of the court order. If an individual needs to modify the alimony payments, they should petition the court for a modification order.

The party requesting the modification will be required to show that there have been substantial changes since the order was first made. This may include evidence of a change in financial circumstances, such as being laid off, retiring, or becoming disabled.

There may also be other significant changes, which may include the receiving spouse earning a significantly higher income and no longer needing the alimony payments to be financially stable. In some circumstances, the paying spouse may need to petition the court to terminate alimony payments altogether.

A court will consider several factors when determining whether or not to terminate alimony. There may be certain conditions which, if present, may make a court more likely to grant a petition to terminate alimony, including if the paying spouse:

  • Lost their job, and, therefore, is unable to pay;
  • Is suffering from an illness which makes it more difficult for them to work;
  • Would suffer extreme financial hardship if required to pay; or
  • Would be treated unfairly if they were required to pay.

The party requesting to terminate alimony must show the court that a condition exists which may automatically terminate the alimony or that the party is so badly damaged financially by having to make the alimony payments that those payments must terminate to prevent further harm.

It is important to be aware that a court will not likely be swayed to terminate alimony if the paying spouse deliberately loses their job, resigns, or voluntarily takes a reduction in income. In addition, proving unfairness may be very difficult, so it would be helpful to have the assistance of an attorney who will be aware of the most effective type of evidence.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of an Illinois family lawyer for any divorce or alimony issues, questions, or concerns you may have. Your lawyer can advise you regarding Illinois law on alimony. Your attorney can assist you with your alimony petition and help you present the best evidence in court for why you need alimony payments.

If you are the spouse who will be required to make alimony payments, your attorney can help you oppose those payments, if necessary. Having an attorney assisting you is the best chance at getting a fair divorce and alimony order.