Depending on the circumstances of the case and the parties' finances, in some cases, it is simply a given that one party will have to pay the other maintenance. The question then becomes how much and, more importantly, for how long? Although the current law provides a clear answer to this question, this was not always the case. Prior to the 2015 amendments to the maintenance law, there were no clear-cut guidelines setting forth the amount or duration of maintenance. Rather, the Court was instructed to consider all relevant factors in determining the amount and duration of maintenance, including but not limited to the parties' respective incomes, the earning capacity of each party, the standard of living established during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the ages of both parties. As a result, the amount and duration of maintenance was left entirely to the Judge's discretion and maintenance awards were often unpredictable.
However, in January 2015, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was amended to include clearer guidelines regarding both the amount and the duration of maintenance. As a result, if a party is ordered to pay maintenance to another party, the statute now makes it very clear how long the paying party will have to pay maintenance. Section 504(b-1) of the statute provides a table of numbers assigned to the length of the marriage, then requires the court to multiply the length of the marriage by its appropriate designation on the table. The table states marriages of five years or less should be multiplied by (0.20). Thus, if two parties were married for five years, you would multiple five by 0.20 to arrive at your duration of maintenance (1 year). Likewise, marriages of more than five years but less than ten years should be multiplied by (0.40), marriages of ten years or more but less than fifteen years should be multiplied by (0.60), and marriages of fifteen years or more but less than twenty years should be multiplied by (0.80). For marriages of twenty years or more, the court has the discretion to award maintenance for the entire length of the marriage, or may order permanent maintenance.
By way of example, let's say party A owes party B maintenance in a divorce. Party A and party B have been married for 12 years. To calculate the duration of party A's maintenance obligation, we would look to the table to determine which number to multiply by the length of the marriage (12 years). Because 12 is more than ten but less than fifteen, we would multiple the length of the parties' marriage (12 years) by 0.6. In this example, the duration of party A's maintenance obligation would last 7.2 years (12 * 0.6 = 7.2). If we use the same example, except say that party A and party B have been married 17 years, we multiply 17 by 0.8 because 17 is more than fifteen but less than twenty. In this example, party A's maintenance obligation would last 13.6 years (17 * 0.8 = 13.6). Finally, using the same example again, say party A and party B have been married 23 years. Under this scenario, the Court has the discretion to either award maintenance for 23 years, or award permanent maintenance.
Although the law has provided clearer guidelines for courts to follow in awarding maintenance, not all cases fall under these guidelines and there are always exceptions to the general rule. If you have a maintenance issue and would like to speak with an attorney, feel free to contact our office for your free consultation today!