Changes to Spousal Maintenance (Effective January 1, 2015)

On August 15, 2014, Governor Quinn signed Public Act 98-0961 into law. The new law will become effective on January 1, 2015, change how spousal maintenance is calculated in Illinois by amending Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). If you are in the need of legal advice regarding spousal maintenance, the attorneys at Allison & Mosby-Scott are here to help. Please call our office at 309-662-5084 to set an appointment.

Under current law, courts are given substantial discretion when determining amounts and the duration of spousal support based on a list of factors. These factors included the length of the parties’ marriage, the present and future earning capacity of each party, and the duration of the marriage. Under the new Act, spousal support will be calculated based on a formula set out in the statutes. Specifically, the Act adds a new subsection (b-1) to 750 ILCS 5/504 which states:

(b-1) Amount and duration of maintenance. If the court determines that a maintenance award is appropriate, the court shall order maintenance in accordance with either paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection (b-1):

(1) Maintenance award in accordance with guidelines. In situations when the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists, maintenance payable after the date the parties’ marriage is dissolved shall be in accordance with subparagraphs (A) and (B) of this paragraph (1), unless the court makes a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate.

(A) The amount of maintenance under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.

(B) The duration of an award under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); or 15-20 years (.80). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.

(2) Maintenance award not in accordance with guidelines. Any non-guidelines award of maintenance shall be made after the court’s consideration of all relevant factors set forth in subsection (a) of this Section.

As you can see, the new maintenance formula is triggered only if the court first determines that maintenance is appropriate, and only if the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists.

Under the new law if a couple had been married for 14 years, and their aggregate gross income is $200,000.00 (wife earns $150,000.00, and husband earns $50,000.00), the guideline maintenance formula will be:

Payor’s (wife’s) annual gross income: $150,000.00
30% of payor’s gross income: $45,000.00
Payee’s (husband’s) annual gross income: $50,000.00
20% of payee’s gross income: $10,000.00
Annual maintenance: $45,000.00 – $10,000.00 = $35,000.00
Combined gross income of the parties: $150,000.00 + $50,000.00 = $200,000.00
40% of combined gross income: $80,000.00
Maintenance ($35,000.00) + payee’s gross income ($50,000.00) = $85,000.00
Maintenance and payee’s gross income is more than than 40% of the parties’ combined gross incomes, so, therefore, under the new statute, annual maintenance payments of $30,000.00 would apply because of the 40% cap.

In order to determine how long the wife must pay maintenance to husband, the multipliers described in subparagraph 504(b-1)(1)(B) of the statute are applied. Because the marriage was between 10-15 years, a multiplier of .6 would apply. So in this example maintenance will be paid for 8.4 years (marriage of 14 years x .6 factor = 8.4 years).

While a judge will still have the discretion to follow or not to follow the guidelines after considering all relevant factors, we expect that judges will most likely follow the guidelines.

Also, for divorcing couples whose gross annual income is in excess of $250,000.00, there is a question on how the guidelines apply as the statute states that the guidelines apply to incomes less than $250,000.

The new maintenance statute may also affect child support. Section 505(a)(3) has been amended by adding (g-5) which state:

That “the court, in its discretion, in addition to setting child support pursuant to the guidelines and factors, may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to contribute to the following expenses, if determined by the court to be reasonable:
. . .
(g-5) Obligations pursuant to a court order for maintenance in the pending proceeding actually paid or payable under Section 504 to the same party to whom child support is to be payable.

Allison & Mosby-Scott recognizes that the calculations in the new law, while structured, may not provide the best solution for all our clients. But the new law does provide guidelines on which attorneys can look at more specific factors, focus on each party’s needs and interests, and to advocate for deviations from the guidelines.