Remarriage and Alimony in Illinois

Learn how remarriage and cohabitation affect alimony rights in Illinois.

By , Attorney · Harvard Law School
Updated by Melissa Heinig, Attorney · Cooley Law School
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Although alimony is becoming less common, Illinois courts will still award it to a financially-dependent spouse who doesn't have sufficient income to be self-supporting after divorce. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/504.) When the spouse receiving alimony (the "supported spouse") remarries, however, the paying spouse will usually want to terminate alimony.

This article explains how a supported spouse's remarriage or cohabitation affects alimony under Illinois law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Illinois after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.

Overview of Alimony in Illinois

In Illinois, there are several types of alimony, which may take the form of a lump-sum payment, a transfer of property, or periodic payments. Periodic alimony, by which the supporting spouse makes payments on a schedule (usually monthly) to the supported spouse, is the most common type of spousal support.

The court usually sets periodic alimony for a specific duration of time, or until some event occurs—although in rare cases and long-term marriages, the court will award permanent alimony.

When deciding whether to award a spouse alimony, Illinois courts will consider the following factors:

  • each spouse's income, property, and earning ability
  • each spouse's financial needs
  • the length of the marriage
  • the couple's standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse's age and health
  • whether either spouse delayed education, training, or employment due to the marriage
  • the time needed for either spouse to get education or training to be employable, and
  • the tax consequences of alimony payments to either spouse. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/504 (a).)

Impact of Remarriage on Alimony in Illinois

Unless the spouses agreed otherwise in their divorce agreement, alimony ends automatically in Illinois when the supported spouse remarries. The paying spouse may stop making alimony payments as of the date of the supported spouse's remarriage. The paying spouse doesn't have to return to court or ask for a termination of support. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/510 (c).)

The supported spouse must notify the paying spouse at least 30 days before or within 72 hours of the marriage. The paying spouse is entitled to reimbursement for any payments made after the date of the wedding.

The paying spouse must still pay any amounts that were already due as of the date of remarriage. If alimony was in the form of a lump-sum payment or property transfer, the paying spouse must still complete that payment or transfer, even if the supported spouse has remarried.

If paying spouses get remarried in Illinois, there is no automatic effect on their alimony obligation. It is, however, a factor that the courts can consider when deciding whether to continue spousal support payments. For example, if a man has remarried and supports a new family, Illinois courts have held that he shouldn't necessarily have to support a childless former wife who is employable.

Termination or Modification of Alimony in Illinois

Illinois law allows either spouse to ask the court to modify or terminate alimony payments when there is a substantial change in circumstances. The judge will decide whether to change or end alimony based on the following factors:

  • either spouse's change in employment status, and whether the change was voluntary
  • whether the supported spouse has made a good-faith effort to become self-supporting
  • either spouse's inability to earn money in the future (for example, due to a disability)
  • the tax consequences of the alimony payments on either spouse
  • how long alimony has already been paid compared to the length of the marriage
  • each spouse's property received from the divorce
  • either spouse's increased or decreased income since the original alimony award
  • property gained by either spouse since the alimony award, and
  • any other factor that the court deems relevant. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. §5/510 (a-5).)

If you want to modify or terminate alimony payments, you should file a motion in the county court clerk's office. The court will schedule a hearing where both you and your ex-spouse must appear. You must prepare to show the court evidence of any of the above factors that warrant a change or termination of the current alimony payments.

You can avoid a hearing if you and your spouse can agree on alimony. If you reach an agreement, put it in writing, sign it, and file it with the county court clerk's office.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony

In Illinois, the paying spouse's obligation to pay alimony terminates when the supported spouse begins cohabiting with another person. The paying spouse will need to file a motion to terminate support and prove cohabitation. In Illinois, cohabitation means that two people live together in a marriage-like relationship.

When the court is deciding whether two people are cohabiting or simply in a "dating" relationship, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • the length of the relationship
  • how much time the couple spends together
  • the nature of activities the couple engages in
  • the interrelation of their personal affairs (for example, whether they have joint accounts, contribute jointly to pay bills, have purchased property together, and so on)
  • whether the couple vacations together, and
  • whether the couple spends holidays together. (In re Marriage of Sunday, 354 Ill. App. 3d 184.)

Just because the supported spouse is not having a sexual relationship with another person doesn't mean it's not cohabitation. Also, just because two individuals could not be legally married in Illinois doesn't prevent the court from considering the relationship as cohabitation.

If a supported spouse is cohabiting with another person, the paying spouse's obligation to pay alimony ends the day the supported spouse begins an ongoing cohabitation, even if the paying spouse doesn't file the motion to terminate alimony until later. A court may order a reimbursement, back to the date when the cohabitation began.

If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact an Illinois family law attorney for help.

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