Many couples who are married are not financially equal. One spouse often earns more than the other. Illinois law recognizes this and allows for the award of maintenance, which is sometimes called spousal support or alimony, when a couple who is not financially equal divorces.

If you are seeking a divorce, contact a lawyer who can help you understand the role of spousal support in Cook County. Our proactive divorce lawyers can help you make sure you leave your marriage and feel prepared for the future.

What Is Spousal Support?

During a lengthy marriage, it is not uncommon for one person to shoulder the majority of the financial burden for the couple. This is especially true for older divorcing couples where one partner may have been out of the workforce for years, if not decades. Spousal support is money that one partner pays their former spouse for a prescribed period. This money is meant to help you recover financially after a divorce.

For a person to receive spousal support, a judge must first decide that it is appropriate in a given case. The court will rely on several factors to make this determination, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The income and property of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s current and future earning capacity
  • The existence of any former agreement between the parties
  • The amount of time needed for a spouse to enter the workforce

If a court finds that alimony is appropriate, the judge is ordered to apply the state guidelines unless the judge finds a specific reason or reasons as to why the guidelines should not be applied in your specific circumstances.

How is Alimony Calculated in Cook County?

The amount of spousal support awarded depends on whether a judge decides to follow state guidelines. These guidelines can be found in the Illinois state statutes at 750 ILCS 5/504. In general, a judge will follow the state guidelines unless the couple’s gross annual income exceeds $500,000 or if another reason exists, for example if one party is required to pay spousal or child support from a prior relationship.

If an exception to the guidelines does not apply, Illinois law will generally calculate spousal support by taking 33 1/3 percent of the payor’s net annual income and subtracting 25 percent of the payee’s net annual income. The person paying support will be required to make these payments to their former spouse for an amount of time determined by state law.

Under the state’s schedule, the number of years that the marriage lasted is multiplied by a certain percentage. The number that results is the number of years the payor is obligated to make payments. As of 2019, an example of the percentages are:

  • Less than five years (.20)
  • 10 to 11 years (.44)
  • 15 to 16 years (.64)
  • 19 to 20 years (.80)0
  • 20+ years (indefinitely or for a period that is at least as long as the length of the marriage)

An attorney in Cook County can explain how these spousal support guidelines will affect any alimony you may be entitled to.

Ask an Attorney About Spousal Support in Cook County

Spousal support is meant to make sure both spouses can be financially stable following the end of a marriage. An attorney can help you understand spousal support in Cook County and what you may be entitled to. Call Reidy Law Office LLC to discuss your situation.