Many divorcing couples start their newly single lives in very different financial situations. While the divorce laws of Illinois generally strive for equitable division, it’s possible for some divorced spouses to receive financial support to adjust to their new lifestyles after divorce. It’s also possible for alimony or spousal support arrangements to be approved by a judge depending on several different criteria, and some of these arrangements may go into effect during divorce proceedings before a divorce decree is finalized.
If you are expecting to divorce in Springfield, IL and you and your spouse have very different individual financial situations, it’s wise to understand how alimony works in Illinois and the ways alimony agreements may interact with equitable distribution proceedings. A Springfield, IL divorce attorney can help you prepare for your divorce case and understand your rights as they pertain to paying or receiving alimony.
What Is Alimony?
Generally, the Illinois family court system strives to ensure that divorcing spouses can maintain their financial status quo during and after divorce. If one spouse earns significantly more income than the other, it’s possible for the court to rule in favor of granting alimony to the lower-earning spouse. Alimony arrangements might function on a short or long-term basis, and they may continue indefinitely in some situations.
Before awarding any kind of alimony, the court must thoroughly review each divorcing spouse’s income and overall financial situation, including their separate property. Ultimately, the court’s goal is to put the divorcing spouses on equivalent financial footing after their divorce. Some spouses will require financial support to make this happen.
Types of Alimony Possible in Illinois Divorce Cases
If there is a noticeable difference between the income levels and earning capacities of divorcing spouses, the lower-earning spouse may request temporary alimony while divorce proceedings unfold. Temporary alimony aims to ensure the spouse receiving it can maintain their financial status quo during the pending divorce proceedings. Before a judge grants any amount of temporary alimony, the divorce proceedings must reach a point that the judge can determine whether the paying spouse will also be paying child support and whether the receiving spouse will require financial support.
When a judge grants temporary alimony, these payments will continue until divorce proceedings finalize. Once the judge overseeing the divorce finalizes the case, the temporary alimony arrangement will stop, and the new divorce order will take effect. This new divorce order could entail a different level of alimony or include provisions for the length of time that alimony payments must continue.
Some alimony arrangements only last for a short length of time while others persist for a longer term. These determinations depend on the financial situations of both spouses. If a judge approves alimony for an indefinite time, the court will require a periodic review of the recipient’s financial situation to ensure that the alimony payments are still suitable and justified.
Qualifying for Alimony in Illinois
One or both spouses in a divorce case may petition the court for alimony. However, the court only approves alimony for spouses who display a clear need for financial support during and after their divorce proceedings. If you are unsure whether you might qualify for alimony during or after your divorce case, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced Springfield, IL divorce attorney. Your attorney can not only advise you on matters related to alimony and your qualifications to receive it but also represent your interests for the entirety of your divorce case.
The main qualifying factor in determining whether you can receive alimony is your financial situation. If you currently earn far less income than your soon-to-be ex-spouse, then the court will likely view this as justification to award alimony. In some cases, this award will last at least until you can support yourself at an equivalent level to the financial situation you enjoyed during your marriage. The variables that the court will consider in alimony determinations include:
- The income and property owned by each of the spouses.
- Marital property awarded to each spouse in the divorce proceedings.
- The reasonable future earning potential of each of the divorcing spouses.
- Impairment of the future earning capacity of the party who has requested support caused by decisions they made while married. For example, if one of the spouses left their job to be a stay-home parent and homemaker after marrying, this could lead to difficulty obtaining work due to the gap in their employment history.
- The quality of life and standard of living the couple experienced while married.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, emotional health, and physical condition of each spouse.
- The requested length of time for financial support, or the length of time the requesting party believes they require to obtain the credentials needed to gain employment and financial independence.
- The total amount of each spouse’s income, including disability benefits and retirement account holdings.
- Tax implications of the property distribution during the divorce.
- Previous contributions of one spouse toward the other’s education and/or professional certification during the marriage.
- Existing legal agreements between the spouses, such as a prenuptial contract.
- Unique factors specific to the case at hand.
With all these potential variables in play, it is easy to see how alimony determinations can be drawn-out processes requiring extensive research. Your attorney can help you prepare the documentation and evidence you will need to prove your current financial situation.
Some paying spouses who have the liquidity to afford it may opt for paying a lump sum to the receiving spouse instead of making monthly payments. In some situations, a receiving spouse may unintentionally engage in actions that lead to automatic termination of their alimony payments. Some paying spouses who refuse to pay court-ordered alimony could face wage garnishment, interest accrual on unpaid balances, extended duration of their support obligation, and other penalties. Illinois law also allows alimony to cease once the receiving spouse remarries or begins cohabitating with a new intimate partner, or if one of the spouses dies.
If you have questions about qualifying for alimony in Illinois or if you are unsure whether alimony could come into play in your divorce case, contact a Springfield, IL divorce attorney as soon as possible.