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If you are wondering how courts decide the amount/duration of alimony payments, read on¦ The laws governing spousal maintenance (alimony) in Illinois drastically changed on January 1, 2015, when the Illinois Legislature enacted the following guidelines for calculating both the (1) amount and (2) duration of alimony payments:

Amount of Alimony

The amount of alimony shall be calculated by taking thirty percent (30%) of the payor’s gross income minus twenty percent (20%) of the payee’s gross income. The amount calculated as alimony, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of forty percent (40%) of the combined gross income of the parties. (**This formula only applies when the combined gross income of the parties is below $250,000.00.)

Example 1 (40% rule not applicable), assume spouse A (payor) has a gross income of $100,000 per year and spouse B (payee) grosses $20,000 per year. Thus, thirty percent (30%) of payor’s gross income is $30,000 and 20% of payee’s income is $4,000. The difference of $26,000 plus the payee’s income of $20,000 equals $46,000. Forty percent (40%) of the total combined income of the parties is $48,000. Therefore, $26,000 would be the amount of alimony to be paid per year because the amount calculated as alimony, when added to the gross income of the payee ($46,000)  does not result in the payee receiving an amount in excess of forty percent (40%) of the combined gross income of the parties, which is $48,000.

Example 2 (40% rule applicable): Assume spouse A (payor) has a gross income of $100,000 per year and spouse B (payee) grosses $50,000 per year. Thus, thirty percent (30%) of the payor’s gross income is $30,000 and twenty percent (20%) of the payee’s income is $10,000. The difference of $20,000 plus the payee’s income of $50,000 equals $70,000. Forty percent (40%) of the total combined income of the parties is $60,000. Since $70,000 exceeds forty percent (40%) of the total combined income of the parties by $10,000, that $10,000 excess must be subtracted from the $20,000 difference, limiting the payee’s yearly alimony at $10,000 per year. The major difference between this example and Example 1 is that the amount calculated as alimony in this example, when added to the gross income of the payee, results in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of forty percent (40%) of the combined gross income of the parties. Thus, the payee’s alimony is reduced so as not to exceed that forty percent (40%) cap.

**Rule of thumb: As the disparity between the income of the payor and payee increases, the likelihood of the forty percent (40%) rule limiting the payee’s award decreases.

Duration of Alimony

Another major change in the laws governing alimony addresses how the duration of the maintenance is to be determined. Before January 1, 2015, the duration of alimony payments was left to the judge’s discretion. Now courts multiply the number of years the spouses were married by a designated number as follows:

0 – 5 years = multiply by 0.2
5 – 10 years = multiply by 0.4
10 – 15 years = multiply by 0.6
15 – 20 years = multiply by 0.8
20+ years = the court has discretion to order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.

Illinois courts are required to adhere to the guidelines regarding the amount and duration of alimony awards unless the judge finds that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate. If such a finding is made, the judge must articulate the reasoning behind his/her variance from the guidelines. Thus, while these new guidelines have shifted the law governing alimony awards towards a more black and white rule, there remains room for the court to exercise its discretion when the circumstances warrant such discretion.

Whether you are seeking alimony or attempting to avoid these spousal support payments, you may want to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney in Bloomington, IL, who understands the nuances of the Illinois courts and when judges tend to vary from these guidelines. Contact the family law firm of Koth & Gregory at 309-828-5090 today. Let us ease your burden and be your advocate.

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