Courts may consider numerous factors when determining whether to award alimony to one of the spouses and the weight judges give to certain factors varies greatly from case to case. While judges may consider many factors, their goal is typically to award alimony where it is appropriate in order to maintain the parties standard of living during the marriage and not leave one party without the financial means to provide for themselves in the future. The governing statute provides both males and females the ability to seek alimony as the traditional view that males were assumed to be the primary earner has evolved and thus courts strive to award alimony as justice warrants without regard to gender.
Judges will typically first look at the parties incomes, property, and present and future earning capacity as well as any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking alimony due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities as a result of the marriage and any contributions/services by the alimony-seeking party to the education, training, or career of the other spouse. If the alimony-seeking spouse missed educational, training, and/or employment opportunities, judges consider the time necessary to enable the alimony-seeking party to pursue those missed opportunities and whether that party is able to financially support himself/herself during this time or is the custodian of a child making it more appropriate that the custodian refrain from pursuing such opportunities. Thus, if the alimony-seeking spouse sacrificed a college education, quit his/her job, or passed up a promotion to help further the other spouses career or to spend additional time taking care of the house/children, then the court may be more likely to award alimony in the interest of financial fairness.
The parties needs, age, and physical and emotional condition are also factors, especially if limitations exist regarding one or both of the parties abilities to gain and/or maintain employment.
Alimony may be awarded as a way to balance a skewed property division during divorce depending on many other factors. For example, if spouse A had a significant amount of separate property prior to the marriage (property not considered to be joint marital property) and also received an even split of the marital property, then spouse Bs financial worth will be significantly less prior to considering the parties incomes and potential future earnings. Thus, property division is a factor courts may consider more strongly if there is a disparity in the way it was divided.
All of the factors may be given substantially more weight if the couple was married for several years as courts attempt to allow the parties to maintain the standard of living the spouses were accustomed to during the marriage. Thus, the court is more likely to award alimony if the couple was married for 20+ years because the alimony-seeking spouse is likely to have become very used to living a certain way and opportunities may have long since passed and not awarding alimony may leave that spouses financial future in disarray. On the other hand, if a marriage lasts for only a couple years, courts are less sympathetic to the plights of the alimony-seeking spouse because it is less believable that he/she grew accustomed to the standard of living during the marriage and does not have the opportunity to pursue gainful employment after divorce.
A valid agreement between the parties, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, may greatly effect the courts decision. Courts will typically consider such agreements as long as certain facts surrounding the signing of the agreements do not evidence any undue influence or misinformation and it is not unconscionable to allow the agreements to govern. Courts are less likely to recognize postnuptial agreements as there exists a greater suspicion of manipulation.
As previously mentioned, the goal of the Illinois Courts is typically to award alimony where it is appropriate in order to maintain the parties standard of living during the marriage and not leave one party without the financial means to provide for themselves in the future. Thus, the governing statute provides judges with the discretion to entertain any other factors they expressly find to be just and equitable.
If you (or someone you know) need a divorce attorney in Bloomington, IL, contact the family law firm of Koth & Gregory at 309-828-5090. Let us ease your burden and be your advocate.
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