When a married couple decides to divorce, finances are one of the most common areas of contention. In some divorce cases, one spouse is in a much better individual financial position than the other. In these cases, the court may order alimony or spousal support to be paid to the lower-earning spouse so they can become self-sufficient following their divorce.

Alimony or spousal support comes into play in many Springfield, IL divorce cases. Many people who get divorced rely on this income, especially those who gave up working when they got married or left previous jobs to care for children or help their spouse through higher education or professional schooling. If you believe that alimony could come into play in your divorce proceedings, it’s vital to speak to a Springfield, IL divorce attorney as soon as possible.

How Is Alimony Determined?

An alimony arrangement comes about through divorce negotiation or litigation. In many cases, divorcing couples work out their own spousal support arrangements through divorce mediation. When couples cannot come to mutually agreeable terms, they litigate their divorces in court and leave the final decisions concerning their divorce in the hands of a judge. Divorce mediation is typically the preferable way to go about handling a divorce. If a couple has a prenuptial agreement in place, they can simply refer to the section of this contract pertaining to divorce and determine if appropriate conditions have been met for alimony or spousal support.

During the litigation process, the court takes several factors into account when determining alimony. First, a judge will assess each divorcing spouse’s earning potential and current income. Next, they will consider the contributions each spouse made toward the marriage. For example, if one spouse gave up their career to be a homemaker and care for the couple’s children, this will strongly support a claim for alimony. The amount and payment schedule typically fall to the judge’s discretion, as does the timeframe for payments to continue.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Most alimony and spousal support agreements function temporarily. In some cases, a spouse only needs support for a limited time, but other cases may call for more extensive alimony agreements:

  • If a divorcing spouse has a significant disability that prevents them from working in the future, permanent alimony may become a factor in the divorce.
  • When a divorcing spouse is too old or medically unable to find employment, a judge may decide that permanent alimony is necessary.
  • Permanent alimony becomes part of the divorce arrangement if the divorcing couple had a prenuptial agreement stipulating criteria for permanent alimony, and those criteria are met.

These are just some of the ways permanent alimony comes into play in divorce cases. In Springfield, IL, the family court system tends to rule in favor of enforcing alimony that allows the recipient to continue enjoying the same quality of life as they did while married. If you receive alimony or spousal support, it’s vital to understand the full set of conditions of your agreement so you know which terminating actions will bring the payments to a halt.

Terminating Actions in Alimony Agreements

A “terminating action” is any action that an alimony recipient performs that results in ineligibility for further payment. There are several possible ways for alimony to terminate and many different actions that can lead to alimony termination:

  • When one spouse dies, alimony ends. This is true of most temporary and permanent alimony arrangements in Illinois.
  • If the recipient remarries, alimony payments will likely end once their remarriage is finalized.
  • In some cases, alimony may terminate if the recipient begins cohabitating with a new partner.
  • If the recipient starts to earn more money than the payer, the terms of the alimony agreement could indicate termination at this point.
  • In the event the recipient fails to take appropriate action to become self-sufficient, the payer may petition the court to have alimony end.

Terminating actions are typically final, but it may be possible to contest termination in some cases. In mediation, the divorcing couple will likely agree to termination criteria if alimony is on the table. For example, they might negotiate that it should continue permanently on account of the recipient’s disability, or include a provision stating alimony ends once the recipient remarries.

If a couple litigates their divorce, the judge will likely place terminating action definitions in the divorce decree based on state laws and the facts of the case. In most cases, terminating actions include remarriage, cohabitation, or significant changes to either of the spouses’ incomes.

Don’t Disqualify Yourself from Alimony

Even if you are not actively seeking alimony or spousal support in your divorce, it is important to avoid doing anything that might jeopardize your ability to receive it. Starting fresh as a single person following a divorce is a lengthy, expensive, and difficult process for many. The spousal support you receive could be substantially helpful as you start to build your new life on your own, so don’t do anything that would prevent you from collecting it.

If you are exploring new romantic connections, it’s best to wait to pursue these things further until you have a finalized divorce decree. Moving in with a new partner during your divorce case does not only potentially disqualify you from receiving alimony, but it also weakens your position in divorce proceedings.

When it comes to your income level, there is no reason to ever turn down job prospects or promotions out of fear of losing your alimony. Unless you have a significant disability or are otherwise unable to support yourself, alimony only exists to provide the flexibility you need to provide for yourself. Taking any conscious actions to limit your individual financial status to maintain eligibility for alimony will eventually reflect poorly on you, and it could also be a terminating action in and of itself.

It’s natural to have questions about alimony when you suspect it will come into play in your divorce. Ultimately, alimony is only permanent in specific situations, but recipients of any kind of alimony arrangement should fully understand the terminating actions that might bring their payments to an end.