New Maintenance Guidelines on Governor’s Desk

A new bill regarding guideline spousal support, or maintenance, is now on Governor Quinn’s desk awaiting his signature.  The bill makes substantial changes to spousal support in Illinois.

There is now a mandatory term of maintenance equal to 20% of the marriage in marriages of less than 5 years, 40% in marriages of less than 10 years, 60% for marriages of less than 15 years, 80% for marriages of less than 20 years and 100% for marriages of 20 years (or permanent as the court determines).  The statute is unclear regarding possible extensions of maintenance, but does state a court can “permanently terminate” maintenance in marriages of less than 10 years.  That indicates to me that all other maintenance awards are reviewable in nature.

The amount of maintenance is always set based on 30% of the obligor’s gross income less 20% of the obligee’s gross income.  So where the husband earns $100,000 and the wife earns $20,000, maintenance would be $26,000 per year.  The maintenance may not be more than an amount necessary to give the obligee more than 40% of the total gross income ($48,000 in my example above).

The amount paid for maintenance is now also a deduction in calculating net income for child support, meaning child support calculations will now likely result in significantly lower child support awards in medium or long term marriages.

For lawyers and judges, the new statute also requires the court to make specific findings in every judgment as to each maintenance factor.  It does not indicate that this is required only in disputed cases, but in all cases, even when there is no deviation from the statutory guidelines (divorce judgments are about to become significantly longer and likely a larger part of the litigation).

This is not law yet.  In McHenry County Illinois, this will likely significantly change the way maintenance is awarded in short term marriages (where maintenance is usually for a very short time or for a very small amount) and in long term marriages (equalization of incomes for retired couples would be a deviation from guidelines and require special findings, which judges seem hesitant to make).  For 10-20 year marriages, I believe the actual effective difference will be minimal on average, though the effect on each case will be unique.  If you are going through a divorce in McHenry County or Northern Illinois and need an experienced divorce lawyer, please contact me.