The beginning of 2019 brought some significant changes to Illinois state divorce laws, impacting spousal maintenance, or also known interchangeably as spousal support and alimony in Illinois. Most are aware of the basis of spousal support, but to be clear it is a recurring payment from one former spouse, typically the higher earning individual, to the other former spouse. Essentially, the purpose is to avoid unfair financial effects of the divorce on the spouse who earned less income than the other spouse. The duration that spousal maintenance is paid largely depends on the length of the marriage.

As it was before, the court must still make a finding that maintenance is appropriate given the specifics of each individual case, including:

  • Each former spouse’s income, property, needs and earning capacity
  • The standard of living while married
  • Any contributions to the education and career of the higher earning spouse.
  • The tax impact of property division in the couple’s divorce.

Before now starting in 2015, spousal maintenance was calculated by subtracting 20 % of the recipient’s gross income from 30% of the payor’s gross income. As of January 1st of this year, spousal support payments will be calculated by subtracting 25% of the recipient’s net income from 33.3% of the payor’s net income.

Under this new law, the recipient’s spousal maintenance and net income, when added together, cannot amount to more than 40% of the former couple’s combined net income. If this were to happen, the amount of maintenance would be reduced until below the combined net income.

Not only was there a change in state spousal maintenance law, but also a significant federal law change is now in effect. For those whose judgment was entered before January 1st, 2019, the ex-spouse paying alimony could deduct the expense from his or her federal taxes. On the same note, the ex-spouse receiving alimony payments could claim the payments as taxable income. Now, the recently passed tax bill eliminates the tax deduction for payor’s spousal maintenance payments and makes the spousal maintenance income tax-free to the recipient.

These changes have lead to a ton of court cases where people are modifying their old support orders.  If you haven’t done so already you may be making a huge mistake that could cost you a lot of money.

The changing laws for spousal maintenance law can be complicated and confusing. Speaking to an experienced attorney can help clarify and ease any tension and confusion.  If you would like us to recommend an experienced family law attorney who will consult with you for free, call us any time at 312-346-5320.