Maintenance, formerly called alimony in Illinois, is the financial support that one ex-spouse pays to another ex-spouse during and/or after they get a divorce. Maintenance exists to make sure that both parties can support themselves after a divorce. Often times, one spouse will be the “breadwinner” in the family, and the other spouse has given up work opportunities and other advancements to care for the family. The maintenance law seeks to make sure that the other spouse does not end up destitute when the marriage ends.
Unlike child support, maintenance is not automatically awarded in every divorce case. The court will consider many factors to determine whether or not maintenance is appropriate. The court will look at the parties’ standard of living during the marriage, the work history and level of education of each party, and each party’s income to decide whether maintenance should be awarded.
If a court decides that maintenance is appropriate, then there is a formula in the Illinois law that is used to calculate the amount of maintenance and the duration (how long the maintenance will be paid). The amounts are based on both parties’ incomes, and the duration is based on the length of the marriage.
Here are some common questions about maintenance that many people ask me:
Q. Can I get maintenance if I am not married but I have been with my partner for a long time?
A. No. Unmarried couples who separate cannot ask for maintenance in Illinois, even if they have been together a long time. Illinois does not recognize “common law” marriages.
Q. Is maintenance only for wives who stay at home to raise children?
A. No. Maintenance can be received by either a husband or a wife. A spouse can receive maintenance even if he or she is working. It all depends on the circumstances of your case.
Q. Do I have to wait until a divorce is finalized to get maintenance?
A. No. The law allows the parties in a divorce to request temporary maintenance while the case is still being decided.