In Illinois, either spouse may ask the court to order alimony (also known as spousal support) while a divorce is pending or once the divorce is final (or both). Generally, the higher-earning spouse pays support to the lower earning spouse so the lower earner can maintain a reasonable standard of living while figuring out how to become self-supporting. A family law judge will determine whether to award spousal support, how much the payments should be, and how long the payments will continue.
Types of Alimony
The court may award one or more types of alimony: temporary, short-term, and long-term (also known as permanent). Temporary support is designed for the period between filing for divorce and completing a final judgment, if one party requires it to survive. The judge may award short-term support for a designated period of time after the divorce if one spouse needs additional support while working to obtain education or job skills. The court may order long-term or permanent support if the marriage was over ten years. In that case, the judge generally orders one spouse to pay support for up to half the length of the marriage. So, if you were married for twelve years, you could receive support for up to six years--or longer if the judge thinks it's appropriate.
What Courts Consider
Illinois courts do not consider fault (whether one spouse was at fault in ending the marriage) when awarding alimony, but they do consider several other factors, including each spouse's income, earning capacity, property, and financial needs. The court may also look at the length of the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage, as well as potential tax consequences to each spouse of the payments. Lastly, the court may consider each spouse's age, physical, and emotional condition, whether one spouse delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage, and whether one spouse needs time to establish appropriate employment.
In Illinois, there is no set formula to determine support amounts. Instead, the court looks at each spouse's financial situation, as well as the state's legal cases, to decide how much support to order.
Enforcing and Modifying Alimony
To enforce a spousal support order, you may ask the court to issue an order to withhold income from your spouse's paycheck. A spouse who fails to pay support may be required to pay interest on support amounts owed as well as paying attorney fees to the recipient spouse for any costs of collecting the support.
Spousal support ends automatically if either spouse dies or if the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with a partner. But, you and your spouse may agree to continue support or the judge may order it to continue if one of you has serious financial need. To modify a spousal support award, you or your spouse may ask the judge to increase or decrease the amount if circumstances change. Changed circumstances may include moving, a new job, an increase or decrease in salary, termination from a job, or medically related changes.
Under federal tax law, the spouse paying support may claim the payments as a deduction on federal income taxes. The receiving spouse must claim the support payments as income unless the court orders otherwise.
Illinois Compiled Statutes 750 - Chapter 5, §§ 501, 504, 510